December 21, 2013

Finally saw The Desolation of Smaug

Have to say that in spite of it being the holiday month, this December has not been all that great.  I'll spare folks the drama and just say that there was much sucking of pink twinkies (to borrow a phrase from R2-DToots).  Work has been leaving me mentally tapped out, which is probably why a few updates I'd hoped to make in the prior weeks never happened.

Also, the future of the Gamer Security Agency is currently up in the air, with none of the writing staff (those who are left at any rate) really sure what's going on.  Wayne Basta, author of the Arestia series of books (go check them out, as they're pretty good) has noted he stopped submitting articles as he wasn't sure if the site was going to just fade away in the wake of former editor Brian "Fiddleback" Casey having moved on to do his own version, the Mad Adventurer's Society... which is pretty much the same thing as the GSA, just without the overwhelming focus on Edge of the Empire material that the GSA fell into.

But enough of my whining.  It's the holiday season, and that means Christmas to look forward to.  I opted to give myself an early Christmas treat and go see the newest installment of Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy, the Desolation of Smaug.

Let me be honest, from the time it was announced it was going to be a trilogy of films, I wasn't a fan of the idea, and truthfully felt that while including material from the LotR Appendices was cool, making The Hobbit into three films felt more like a money grab.  Of course, that doesn't mean I wouldn't go see them, having been practically raised on Tolkien, with The Hobbit being one of the first books that I had read on my own.

I'd originally planned to go see the latest film on opening day, but car troubles and lackluster response from the repair shop pretty much nixed that whole plan.  And deciding I wanted to see the film sooner rather than later, I opted to brave the Christmas shopping crowds/traffic and head to the theater.

Despite only being the middle film of the trilogy, overall the movie didn't disappoint.  I will say that I thought the movie could have done with a lot less time spent on "oh hey, here's Legolas being all awesome and stuff!"  I will admit to being leery about the addition of Tauriel to the film, but her scenes didn't feel at all forced, and the scenes between her and Kili were sweet without being mushy.  The way that Bard was presented was quite different, and I actually don't mind the change.  Stephen Fry as the Master of Laketown was certainly entertaining to watch. The Dol Guldur/Necromancer story arc was also done well, with Radagast making another appearance.

But the thing that would make or break the film was Smaug, greatest of calamaties.  While I loved the Rankin-Bass take on the scene and the dragon, I felt the film did it just as much justice.  The CGI work on Smaug was incredible, and though processed to sound deeper and more menacing, Benedict Cumberbatch's voicework for the dragon was incredible.  Peter Jackson and his crew did an amazing job of bringing life to the old wyrm, and the scenes inside Erebor were excellent.  And though a change from the books, it was really nice to see Thorin and company make an earnest attempt to take down the beast; naturally they were doomed to fail, but they get an A for both effort and ingenuity.

One element that I think could lead to an interesting scene in the next film is the fact that Legolas is currently the one in possession of Orcrist, having taken it from Thorin when the dwarves were taken prisoner by the wood elves of Mirkwood.  As I said, could lead to an interesting scene where Thorin is either handed back the blade during the upcoming Battle of Five Armies or has it laid to rest when he perishes after said battle.  And don't whine to me about spoilers on that last bit; the book's been around longer than I've been alive!

So overall, the movie was very enjoyable, though not without its faults.  I will probably wind up seeing it a second time, if only due to taking my mother as I've done with all the prior films, and I won't mind doing so in the least.

Though on a gaming related note, I really do hope that Cubicle 7 can get back into producing and releasing supplements for their One Ring RPG.  While I may not be actively playing said game, I do very much enjoy it, and would like to see more of Tolkien's world through the game's filter, as I honestly believe it's the best attempt to reflect the setting while staying true the professor's work.

November 29, 2013

Ways of the Force, version 1.2 (and other things)

Greetings, salutations, and various other modes of introduction.

Firstly, for those readers that live in the U.S., I hope your Thanksgiving was fun, semi-relaxing, and filled with plenty of good eats.

As the title notes, I'm now releasing Version 1.2 of my Ways of the Force fan supplement for use with Fantasy Flight Games' terrific Star Wars Roleplaying Game.

Ways of the Force, Version 1.2

On the mechanical side of things, the material takes into account new material and updates from the Age of Rebellion Beta, as well as some reworking and (hopefully) simplification of some of the new Force Powers, specifically the Injure power and the Resist Force minor power.  I'm quite pleased with how the specializations are set-up, so not major changes there other than swapping out a talent here and there.

However, the biggest change is in the formatting of this fan supplement.  Previous versions have been fairly "bare bones" and going right into the material, with the credits and such at the end.  Well, due to various experiences with some of the realities of web publishing, I've opted to change things up a bit in regards to how the document appears.  For starters, there's an actual cover page, with the credits page following right after.  Also added was a Creative Commons license agreement, something I've added out of semi-reluctant necessity given how one of my other projects was treated as "help yourself and do what you want" due to the lack of the CC license agreement in the document itself, leading to a series of events that I have no desire to repeat.

You might also notice that I've moved away from GoogleDocs and over to DropBox.  I've been having some issues with updating and replacing files on GoogleDocs (to say nothing of GD's lack of ability to track how many hits a file's gotten), and so I'm going to give DropBox a shot.   I've been using DropBox for a couple minor things, and I've been pretty impressed so far.  That and the preview versions of my PDF files don't look quite as garbled or washed out as the did on GoogleDocs.  Still, you'll need to download the file to your computer/netbook/tablet/device for it to look the way it should.

As for the other FFG Star Wars RPG fan project, the Unofficial Species Menagerie, going through the process of getting version 3.0 in order was certainly a learning experience.  In particular, that I should have stuck with my gut feeling and reached out to the person that I wanted to have do the "prettied up" PDF in the first place instead of the individual that I got stuck working with due to the lack of Creative Commons license issue that I noted above.  For all his remarks about my being "unprofessional" (mostly as I was trying to give various artists and authors a reasonable time to respond rather than the "right now dammit!" that he was insisting upon), he certainly screwed several things up, including the spelling of several alien species, and his own attitude was hardly what I'd call professional.  Particularly when Brian "Fiddleback" Casey in his role as editor of the Gamer Security Agency started up a separate thread to announce the newest version of the USM being available and the accusation that I deliberately tried to cut him out of the deal, when nothing could be further from the truth as I tried to arrange a simultaneous notification of both the low-resolution and high-resolution versions.

But that is in the past, and I'm happy to say that JegerGryte (check out his blog here) has happily agreed to step up to the plate in getting a corrected version of the Unofficial Species Menagerie.  He was my original choice as for who I wanted to work on the "prettied-up" version of the USM for the third version, and his work has been outstanding.  He's also shown to have no problems with feedback or about typos, which puts him well above the other guy in my book.  As I said, given the quality of work that he's done and the lack of ego in working with him, I really wish I had stuck to my gut and told "thedearth" to sod off.  Things are looking pretty good, so keep your eyes on the GSA for an update in the near future.

And speaking of the Gamer Security Agency, things are in a state of flux as near as I can tell.  Brian Casey has opted to move on to doing his own version, the Mad Adventurer's Society, and I think his notification that he was stepping down from being the GSA's primary editor has left everyone else a bit gun shy.  While the GSA is still up and still running, there's not been a whole lot of new content.

Also, given a listen to the latest episode of the Order 66 podcast "GMing A-Z with Jay Little" featuring the lead developer/designer of FFG's Star Wars RPG, Mister Jay Little himself.  There is some great advice on working with so-called "problem player" types, with an emphasis on the "working with" part as opposed to the traditional suggestions that focus more on "dealing with" those types of players.

November 10, 2013

It's a Good Weekend to Game

You know, for most of this week not being great, the weekend has been making up for it so far.

In all fairness, the past Sunday was a good day, as I was privileged to participate an a proposal ceremony for two good friends of mine, Amy and Tiffany.  Tiffany put a lot of effort into making sure it would be memorable for her beloved, and aside from a few very minor hiccups, it went according to plan and I'm sure it will be a day that both of them remember fondly in the years to come.  I was particularly glad to have officiated the hand-binding ceremony (which is normally used for neo-pagan weddings but was adapted for wedding proposal in this instance).  I must say, the idea of having Amy travel across and around the Capital District on a scavenger hunt to gather the pieces of her Ren Faire gown while in search of her princess, with each stop (mine being one of them) having not only a piece of the outfit, but also a scroll with the clue to the next location and a script that tied into some notable piece of geek culture (Princess Bride and Star Wars for instance) was a very nice touch.  Tiffany certainly looked like a princess, right down to the tiara and pink dress, and again it was a very touching moment that I was glad to help out with in any way that I could.  Even if it was a frakking cold November night.; man was that fire pit nice to have.

The rest of the week had it's share of bumps, not all of which were work related.  Let's just say I learned who some of my real friends were, and for those people, I'm very thankful.

Friday night was a Skype game run by my long-time and dear friend Linda, who has always been nervous about her ability to GM a game.  She was even more nervous for this Friday's game, and admitted that she almost called it off, but only went through with it because she had promised to run the Age of Rebellion Beta adventure for us.  There was a tad of a rocky start as some technical issues had to be resolved before we could start, and one player (her son) was late due to high school team practice.  We only focused on the middle part of the adventure, as the first part is frankly rather dull and really only has bearing if one is going to be running an extended campaign; since this was a one-shot, the personalities at the Rebel base really didn't matter.  Once the ball got rolling, and particularly once we got to the meat of the adventure, the entire group had a blast.  I feel in some ways that I cheated, as I made a character (Human Spy/Scout) that was almost tailor-made to completing the various objectives that we had, particularly the sneaking about and sabotaging bits of the Imperial base, though by the end of the adventure, everyone got a chance to participate and be awesome.  Heck, our Duros Ace/Pilot even managed to make a Piloting (Space) check!  But yeah, it was a lot of fun, and was exactly what I needed after the way most of the week had gone.

Last night was part three of what I believe was originally supposed to be a two-part Dragonball Z game.  The GM, a fellow fan of the Dragonball series, had asked to borrow my DBZ:RPG books (yes, they exist!) a couple months back, and I did so after digging them out of the storage closet.  The books were published by R. Talsorian and used their Instant Fuzion system, and while the core book was certainly very rough, the three books in tandem actually made for a pretty decent RPG, albeit one that shouldn't be taken too seriously.  Kinda like the Dragonball Z series itself; DBZ's not a fight anime, it's kabuki theater with a martial arts theme (watch the series with that notion in mind, and you'll find it's far more enjoyable, particularly the Kai version which cuts a lot of the excess dialogue & filler).

I think only one player of the group was actually serious in regards to his character; playing some kind of science super-ninja commando while the rest of the party consisted of Shosen, a comically serious "not an elf!" mystic and Karen Kaori, a teenage female sword master (with typical teenage girl interests such as MLP:FiM merch, boy bands, latest fashions, and shopping as well as being an expert with a blade), with myself playing a tween male ki-powered kung fu warrior.  Drawing quite a bit from Dragonball-era Son Goku as well as Son Goten and a touch of Son Gohan, Chris Shiroh was both fun to play (cheerfully naive but not utterly clueless) and a monster in a fight due to his absurdly high Power Level and the fact that I put most of my skill points into combat skills (given the game & setting, not an unusual thing).  The GM also had a few changes to the basic rules, stuff that I believe came from the Dragonball X fan supplement that I grabbed off the web several years ago as well as stuff of his own devising, such as a "special heritage" chart that everyone got to roll on using a d6.  Haven't seen the chart, but the results were "You get nothing" (roll of 1), a specially-forged weapon (roll of 3 for the teen sword master), starting out with the Kaio-Ken technique (roll of 5 for the mystic), and "unusual parentage" (roll of 6, which is what I got).  In retrospect, I probably should have declined or asked to tweak what that parentage meant.

So what was Chris' "unusual parentage" you ask?  Well, apparently Goku and Vegeta weren't the last pure-blooded Saiyans in the universe (GM set his game about 500 years after the end of the DBZ series and completely ignored the anime-only GT series), as Chris was a Human-Saiyan hybrid, which meant a much higher starting Power Level than what I already had, and a host of other perks that have proven to make my mighty-mite PC into a pint-size powerhouse, particularly the Zenkai/Near-Death Power-Up.  Again, in retrospect I probably should have declined, but since we went in with the expectation that we'd only be playing a couple of sessions, I opted to zip my lip and just play the game.

While those added advantages did enable me to play "Big Damn Heroes" a couple of times, including being the only PC with a chance against the major villain of the arc (particularly due to another house rule the GM to make Power Levels have more bearing on the game), there was the fact that I was playing a combat monster, and anything the GM came up with that would be a threat to Chris would likely wipe the floor with the rest of the group.  Something that was proven when the arc villain, a cruel Android warrior in the service of a reformed Red Ribbon Army killed the super-ninja commando without that much effort, leaving the PC feeling (rightfully so perhaps) that he'd been set-up for a fight that he had no chance in winning given the high disparity between their respective Power Levels, especially once the villain (Colonel Chrome) entered "hyper mode" and pretty much became a full grown mountain bear to the other PCs' newborn kittens.  Our mystic, Shosen, did prove the Kaio-Ken was useful, since for a while it allowed him to keep rough pace with the Android villain, but folded once it became a case of close-quarters fighting (something that Shosen was not good at).  In terms of skill (at least before his "hyper mode") Karen was able to land a couple of hits with her sword just on sheer skill (she's that good!), but it felt like the GM used the existence of my PC and the fallout from a very lucky roll on the Zenkai power-up from Chris getting his butt handed to him during the second session as an excuse to make this one foe an over-powering threat.

Now to his credit, he did provide plenty of other second-string baddies (weaker models of Androids) for the rest of the group to quite happily pulverize (with the science ninja even getting to settle his vendetta with a ruthless female cyborg before getting sent to another dimension), so it wasn't like the rest of the party was just sitting there and watching as Chris and the Colonel slugged it out.  I don't know if it's on the Evil Overlord list or not, but "seriously injuring and then threatening to kill the pretty love interest within sight and reach of the hero is not a sound battle strategy" should be added.  Yes, Chris has "a thing" for Karen (there's less than two year's age difference), and after seeing one friend/ally killed and his crush about to go the same way... yeah, Saiyan Rage got triggered, and lead to a brutal battle as Chris went from "just barely able to keep up with BBEG in Hyper Mode" to "kicking ass like it was going out of style."  We're not sure if we're going to play this game again, as most of us had fun (particularly by not taking things too seriously), but I am leery about just how powerful Chris is in comparison to the rest of the group; it's almost akin to playing tFU's Starkiller with a bunch of low-level PCs.  Granted, I can simply choose to "hang back" and not get too directly involved in the action, thus allowing the other PCs to shine (a habit I picked up from playing Force-users in multiple versions of Star Wars RPGs), but there's still the specter of "showy boring invincible hero" to worry about.  Which I guess if you stop and think about it, is true to the source material as Goku was often the one true powerhouse that saved everyone's butts in DBZ (ending of Cell Saga being the primary exception).

And the capstone to a weekend of gaming goodness will be the continuation of the Edge of the Empire Skype game I'm in, where I'm playing a nascent Force-sensitive street rat.  Sadly though, the game had a few shake-ups in the party line-up, as two players had to bow out due to real life concerns.  As rough as this past week has been for me, it's nothing compared to the utter hell that Rikoshi has been put through the past several months, and I hope that things are finally starting to turn around for him; if anyone deserves a major lucky break, it's him.  Also bowing out is Nateal, as her focus on completing her college degree for this Spring isn't leaving her much time for much else, which I can fully appreciate and respect.  So it will be interesting to see what their replacement characters bring to the table.

Semi-related note, I've been doing some more revisions to my Ways of the Force supplement.  The major change that's on the docket is to the "Resist Force" mini-power, which as currently written is far too clunky and cumbersome for such a streamlined rules system.  Got a few different ideas to work from, so now it's a matter of finding the time to parse out which one works the best; any way I slice it, there's going to be complications added to the system, it's just finding a way that is as seamless as possible.  Another change is to the Injure power.  Had folks complaining the damage was too low, mostly as they were forgetting that the target's Soak Value didn't apply when in the heat of combat, so I'm dropping that and just upping the base damage a bit, as well as changing what skill the target uses on the opposed roll; Force-user rolls Discipline vs. target's Resilience, which seems to be working out pretty well based on the limited play-testing I've been able to do.

Well, I think that covers pretty much the highlights.  That and I've rambled on long enough (I so did not expect to go on at length about the DBZ game when I sat down to start writing this) for this brisk Sunday morning.

October 19, 2013

Hell's Bells!

This month has been pretty crazy, and not necessarily in a good way.

Gaming schedules have been pretty much tossed out of whack.  So far, only my Saturday gaming group has survived the chaos, though we've not gotten to do a whole lot of playing, though hopefully tonight will be a return to form, though in an unusual method (more on that later).

Back when Chris and Dave of the Order 66 podcast were doing their Kickstarter, I'd pledged enough to get to play in a Skype game run by Chris.  Well, through a comedy of errors on both our ends, that session got delayed a fair bit with my finally able to join in on a Saturday game session.  And to be honest... it was worth the wait.  I had never gamed with any of the other folks that were playing, but we came together pretty well as a team.  The adventure in question, "Dead Man's Hand" was fun to play, and even fun to run as I got the chance to run a demo game for some folks last night, and opted to use that one.  Sadly, the players I had weren't quite as creative with their actions, though I suspect most of that had to do with just not being familiar with the dice mechanic that FFG used for their Star Wars system.

The Wednesday D&D game has gone belly-up, due in no small part to just general lack of interest.  The GM had something going as far as a storyline, but that eventually just fell apart and fell into the "go fight stuff and swipe their loot" rut that has been the death of more than one D&D game I'm sure.

On a positive note, a suggestion I made on the FFG Age of Rebellion Beta forums, to rename the Knowledge (Galactic Civil War) skill to the more general Knowledge (Warfare) has made it into the Beta Updates, so hooray me.  Most of the changes made so far to the AoR Beta have been fairly minor, with the biggest changes for the Week 2 update being the addition of some new talents for the Gunner and Commando specializations.

I've been chugging along with articles for the Gamer Security Agency, though my day job hasn't left me as much mental bandwidth as I'd like.

I'm also gonna call an audible here, in regards to the backer reward adventure that I'm to write as part of the Order 66 Kickstarter.  I've had some tech issues, and several files got corrupted... including the adventure I was writing.  I've got an older back-up copy, so the entire thing wasn't lost, but I did lose all of Act 3 and a fair amount of formatting, so that puts my way behind schedule, as I'd hoped to have it done by the end of October.

In other dour news, fellow gamer, Star Wars fan, and d20 Radio's resident furry Rikoshi had to reluctantly bow out of the Sunday Skype game that I play in.  While I can understand why he did it, having seen the crapfest that his life has unfairly become over the past few months, it still sucks to lose such a fun member of one's gaming group.  His antics as the Squib scoundrel Kirkinnery-tovante was always entertaining, jaunty hat and all.  Hopefully he can get things in order and turned around for the better sooner rather than later.

There's an update for the Unofficial Species Menagerie in the works, prodded into higher gear due to events I'm not going to go into detail on.  Hopefully, a few new things are in place on the updated version to avoid that sort of mess in the future.  The species that have gotten official stats or are due to have them very soon have been removed, mostly as I want to play nice with FFG when and where I can.  I've still got the versions that Ben and I came up with, but I can't say if they'll show up someplace else at a later date, though I know that a few of Ben's can be found over at the d20 Radio forums in the FFG Star Wars RPG section.

I've also been invited to partake in a paganesque ceremony on behalf of some good friends in the not-to-distant future.  It's nothing crazy or criminal, but given the circumstances behind it I'm quite honored to have been asked to attend.

As for the Saturday gaming group, we're going to break out an old and rather unexpected RPG for a one-shot session, mostly as something to break away from our usual games.  The game in question?  The Dragonball Z Anime Adventure RPG by R. Talsorian.  I was quite amused when the suggestion came up, having played a very short campaign of that game many years ago, and remember the main rulebook being an atrocious example of poor layout; it took the third book to make the came well and truly playable as well as providing a number of sensible rules patches to cut down on the curb-stomp battles that could occur all too frequently (particularly where extra actions were involved).  It should be interesting if nothing else.  I doubt there will be anyone with a Power Level that's over 9000 or people's hair turning gold from their extreme power, which is for the best.

October 1, 2013

Some updates

Not a whole lot to say, other than there are times I honestly forget I have this blog.

As far as gaming goes (the main reason I started this blog), I've been very much enjoying Ben's Sunday Night Star Wars: EotE Skype game, in part because the character I'm playing is quite fun.  Valin is at his core a Force-sensitive street rat, and a character idea that I had from way back in my D6 days.

I'd tried to convert him to WotC's various d20 versions, but with no real success as he frequently ended up being more powerful in terms of his Force-usage than I really wanted him to be.  So I'm quite pleased with how he's got a lot of room to grow as a Force-user in FFG's Star Wars system, and how simply having the Jedi Initiate specialization from my Ways of the Force document doesn't make him automatically more capable than someone using the F/S Exile from EotE or the F/S Emergent from AoR.

The most recent session had part of Valin's past come back to haunt him, namely that he's on the ISB's list as a "person of interest in relation to a known criminal," this being a Bounty Obligation.  All from doing what he thought was a harmless bit of searching on the general topic of "Jedi" using the data archives on The Wheel.  Figures I'd roll a Despair; probably should have simply had him do a search for "busty Twi'lek dancers" as that would have been safer.  Oh well, at least our Hired Gun got a snazzy new disruptor rifle out of the encounter and Valin's traded in his dinky light blaster pistol for a heavy blaster pistol, providing some much needed extra firepower for the inevitable firefights the group will be getting into.  Also got to spill a bit of his backstory, which is always a plus.  We've also embarked upon the "Beyond the Rim" adventure, which I recognize in part because I did a GSA review on it.  I'm waiting until we get through the first Act before I go back and see what we missed in terms of the adventure, as the GM hinted that we'd skipped a fair chunk of that part.  We are slated to play again this coming Sunday, so that's certainly something to look forward to.

My reformatted Saturday group has opted to put 7th Seas to the side, at least for now.  Which is a mild shame, as I very much enjoyed playing the role of Estevan Santiago de Montoya... though the fact our party's Fate Witch bestowed him with a number of Swords Blessing dice makes him a great deal more potent than he really should be.  Then again, if the GM was worried about the Fate Witch's magic causing problems (even if she's only half-blooded), he probably shouldn't have allowed Sorte into the game in the first place.

We're still playing Legend of the 5 Rings, so AEG's Roll & Keep system is still being used by our group.  I must say, the L5R party that we've got now is rather interesting, with my Hare Bushi (Usagi Hiro) and the Mantis Shugenja (Moshi Kamahime) being the only hold-overs from the previous group.  Now, we've got a Shosuro actress (whom the party doesn't know is such; we just think she's a minor Scorpion artisan that's been given leave to travel Rokugan because she's of such little importance back home; c'mon, she's a Scorpion, we should know better!) and a Kuni Witch-Hunter, who takes the "grim and dour Crab samurai" to new levels.  We do look to be adding a fifth, with that player wanting to run a Kitsuki Investigator... which should be interesting given the presence of the secretive Scorpion.  The campaign itself has taken an interesting turn, as the Hare and Mantis PCs have had their "year of wandering" since participating (and in the Hare's case, winning) the Topaz Championship, and now we have to be "responsible adults."  Of course, since the GM wants us to still be adventurers, he took the easy route and had Hiro be promoted to the rank of Emerald Magistrate, with Kamahime being "honored" with the position of being one his yoriki, with the Crab Witch-Hunter being in a similar role (was assigned with no input from Hiro, who does not care for the Crab given a still-too-recent event), and I suspect the Kitsuke Investigator will be much the same, though at least Hiro's had good experiences with samurai of the Dragon clan, including an amusingly rowdy and Ise Zumi tattooed monk who was notable for his very informal sense of humor as well as his portly physique and preference for displaying such; think Uncle Iroh from Avatar: The Last Airbender before he buffed up for his Season 3 prison escape.  At least with one of us being an Emerald Magistrate, that makes traveling the Empire a good deal easier, as we can be assumed to be on "Imperial business."  Plus, being on friendly terms with the current Emerald Champion doesn't hurt either.

As far as I know, the GM is still using the Heroes of Rokugan II: Champions of the Sapphire Throne series of modules as the basis for his campaign, though I suspect we've thrown a few monkey wrenches into the established campaign, particularly as it was supposed to be a rather arrogant Mirumoto Bushi that won the most recent Emerald Championship, but instead we'd done enough things in the background to allow the more honorable and sensible Kakita Bushi that had reached the finals to emerge the victor, with one of those things being Hiro and the Kakita having an introspective discussion on the nature of iaijutsu, which was interesting to roleplay given that Hiro uses an unorthodox style that relies heavily on speed and agility (more so than the usual Hare Clan fighting style) and factors into his iaijutsu, while the Kakita Bushi is obviously much more of a traditionalist.  I think the Scorpion courtier/temptress also played a role in making sure the Mirumoto's mind was not as focused as it should be, but we don't know the details other than she went to "have a polite conversation with the man."  She returned unharmed, so whatever she said or did must have been effective.  Of course, given that she was a social monster (Fortunes help you if you had a number of Social or Mental disadvantages), she probably did only have to "talk" with the Mirumoto to throw him off his game.  Still it's been an interesting campaign, and I'm looking forward to more chances to play.

So what are we looking to play now that 7th Seas is being moth-balled?  Well, the GM had picked up the PDF (and now core rulebook) for the 5th Edition of Shadowrun.  To be honest, the last time I gave Shadowrun any serious thought was back during my college days, when I played in a couple different semester-long campaigns and ran a couple mini-campaigns myself.  As much fun as I had with Shadowrun, the system had its problems (heaping handfuls of dice being one of them), and looking at the 5th edition, it would appear that some of them are fixed, but there's new things that, at least on paper, look problematic.  The huge handfuls of dice are still there, but the dice system looks to have been streamlined to make task resolution much quicker, which is a plus.  There's a few other changes from what I remembered of 1st and 2nd edition, but most of them are good.  The section on the Matrix and deckers still makes my eyes glaze over, so if we do go for Shadowrun as our alternate Saturday game, I'll most likely go with a street samurai or perhaps a physical adept of some type.  Keep your eyes tuned to the GSA, as I've got a review on the SR5e book in the works.

We've also played our initial session of that Dresden Files game I mentioned in my last update.  That one I'm not so sure about, but it could just be that I was mentally wrung out from the way my work day had gone, and thus not in the best of moods.  It did seem (at least to me) that the GM allowed one of the players to gobble up precious gaming time by simply letting her ramble on, but again I wasn't in the best of mindsets, so that's probably not a fair assessment.  We're due to play this Friday, so we'll see what happens.  If I truly feel that I'm not a fit for that group, I may just bow out, but I'll probably play at least a couple more sessions before I make that call.

I did get to run a couple demo games at a local game shop not too long ago, those being the new Firefly RPG (using the GenCon preview copy I picked up at GenCon) and Age of Rebellion.  Both of those went pretty well, particularly the Firefly one as I took a suggestion offered by Jay Little on how he runs convention games, that being to simply take a single word (in my case, "ponies") and see where the players go with it.  Turns out this particular crew of custom-made characters took the word "ponies" and spun it into a job hauling horses for a racing operation on the edge of the system on behalf of Badger (something to do with fallout from a recent shindig from what the PCs had heard), but they also had to fly through a section of space that had a string of Reaper sightings and then deal with a local wannabe mobster that was trying to carve himself a piece of the racing tracks' profits.  It was a beautifully chaotic mess, and probably the highlight of the afternoon.  The Age of Rebellion game went well, as I'd co-opted and blended the intro adventures from the 1st edition WEG rulebook and the 2nd edition R&E WEG rulebook.  It worked out pretty well, and I had a full table of six players.  I built the PCs using the standard character creation rules from the AoR Beta, though I did mix in a couple of EotE species (a Wookiee Soldier/Commando and a Twi'lek Spy/Infiltrator) just to see how the EotE species rated in comparison to the AoR Beta's "new hotness" species.  They worked together quite well, showing that FFG's design intent of "three separate core rulebooks that can be linked together into a seamless whole" is certainly achievable.

In non-gaming related news, I finally got rid of the aging computer desk that I've had for close to 20 years, having accepted that it was long past time for it to go.  I took my friend Ben's advice as to which computer desk to get.  While I kinda miss the hutch that my old desk had, frankly most of the stuff that was stored in the hutch was crap that should have been thrown out years ago.  Still getting used to the new desk, but it was surprisingly easy to put together, particularly as I didn't bother using the dinky toy screwdriver that was included and instead used some real tools.  Amused my stepdad (who knows that I'm not much of a handyman) to hear that the screwdriver set he'd gotten me as a 'useful gift' several Christmas' ago had been so useful to me.

In tech news, I took ownership of a 4th-gen iPad.  Overall, the major difference I'm seeing between it and my old 1st-gen hand-me-down iPad is the new one runs apps a lot faster, which is certainly nice.  I also upgraded to iOS 7, and to be honest, I'm not having a lot of issues with it.  In fact, the only "issue" I'm having is that I can't resize images when setting them as backgrounds, which in the grand scheme of things is a minor annoyance.  The kiddy look of the app icons doesn't bother me, as I stuff most of them into a sub-folder anyway given I infrequently I use them.  But since the main thing I've been using my new iPad for is to play video games (KOTOR, Secret of Mana, and Plants vs. Zombies) or store various game-related PDFs (such as books and character sheets), I probably count as a "casual user" more than anything.

I did do some updates to the Unofficial Species Menagerie, and have handed it off to my partner-in-crime Ben Erickson so that he can do what updates he sees fit to do for it.  So that's in the works, but there's no time-table for when it'll be done other than the old Duke Nukem 4ever adage of "when it's finished."  Also still writing for the GSA, though I've eased up over the past few weeks on producing articles, as this fall allergy season has really been kicking my butt, leaving me weary by the time I get home, enough so that the last thing I want to do is stare at a computer screen after spending the bulk of my workday staring at a computer screen.

And that pretty much covers the bulk of what's been going on in my life over the past month or so.  While I hope I'll be a bit more punctual in updating this blog, the way things are going, I'm not really counting on it.  Odds are I'll post again sometime around Halloween, unless something really interesting crops up.

September 7, 2013

A Collective Bout of Creative Craziness...

Just a quick update (something I'd promised myself I'd do more often).

Last night, we finally got characters set and ready for a Friday Night Skype game, this one being Evil Hat's FATE-based Dresden Files RPG.  Why was last night such a milestone you might ask?  Because that's when we tackled Phase 4 and Phase 5 of creating one's background aspects.

I kinda feel for our GM, Eric aka oghen, as there were points where it was very much like herding cats in trying to keep everyone on the same page as we bounced ideas for how each character interacted with another character's Phase 3 background aspect.  But he did a pretty good job of keeping a handle on things, and it was a lot of fun to discuss and suggest various ideas.

I must say, the early signs are showing this to be an interesting group, as we've got four players and most of the bases covered.

Dedicated wizard?  Check (though he's more of an apprentice really)
Divinely inspired/empowered channeller?  Check
Vanilla mortal? Check (though nowhere near as badass as Murph, but then who is?)

And me?  I'm playing a member of the Alphas, Chicago's very own resident pack of collegiate werewolves.  Though the game is set a fair distance away from Chicago, it's set to involve the early stages of the Paranet, which gives a reason for my character to have roamed so far from the Windy City and the rest of the pack.  Though I also entertain the personal idea that he tried to score with Andi (the very buxom redhead member of the Alphas that's been named in the Dresden Files series), moving away after a very harsh crash & burn; maybe Andi was still going through her "sexy" phase (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World film reference; check it out, it's an enjoyable decent movie in spite of Micheal Cera's rather lackluster performance).

Given the only other character I've really played in this game was himself a White Council Wizard (and was rightly called Dresden Lite), playing a non-caster in this game will be different, and a new experience.  What is interesting is how shape-shifting in this game works, namely in that it not only lets my college graduate werewolf access other supernatural powers, but it also lets me completely reshuffle his skill tree, making so that his human self is both smart and a capable investigator, but his fuzzy self is a nasty customer when things get violent.

Note to character: loose shirt, loose-ish pants, easy-to-slip off shoes, and going commando when you're expecting there to be trouble.  Going from one of Billy Borden's comments in the "Your Story" DF rulebook, getting your tighty-whiteys all tangled up when trying to shift into wolf-form doesn't sound like a fun experience.  Sadly, the Rite of Pants isn't an option (very old Werewolf: The Apocalypse joke).

I'm debating about doing a Heroes on Demand entry for Lucas (my investigator werewolf), much as I did with Danny Copperfield, the Young Wizard that I mentioned previously.

We're set to actually have our first session in a couple of weeks, and I must say that I'm looking forward to it.

And the Star Wars EotE Skype campaign has finally gotten rolling, with our next session being tomorrow night.  Valin is a fun character to play, as he's not a combat-heavy character and nothing about him really screams "leading man" material.  Yeah, he's Force-Sensitive, and the GM is letting me use the Jedi Initiate specialization, but Valin's Force-stuff right now is at the very minor level, so he won't be doing any spotlight hogging for a very, very, very long time, especially with the rather eclectic cast of characters that comprises the rest of the group.

September 2, 2013

Ways of the Force, version 1.1

Firstly, happy Labor Day for those of us enjoying a day off in the U.S.

Kind of fitting that after a couple month's worth of labor, consisting of a substantial amount of review and revision, I now present the latest version of my Ways of the Force fan supplement:

Ways of the Force v1.1

There's been some pretty substantial changes, the foremost of which is the restructuring of the Jedi Initiate talent tree.  The intent with the change was to allow for character with this specialization to not be overly penalized for not becoming an expert at using a lightsaber, though mastery of the lightsaber still remains a major focus of this specialization.  So if all you want to do with your Jedi Initiate is buff up their Force Rating and not once pick up a lightsaber, you can easily skip all those lightsaber-related talents.

I also removed and revised some of the Minor Force Powers, as well as removed a talent (Force Leap) from the Jedi Initiate.  If you've managed to snag a copy of the Age of Rebellion Beta, then you'll understand way.  If not, let us just say that my thoughts when developing some of these elements came very close to those of FFG's design team.

Part of the reason why there had been such a lengthy delay between versions was that back in July, I decided to develop the Force Leap talent and the "Search Your Feelings" minor power into full-fledged Force Powers, with a Basic Power and various Upgrades.  I actually had a decent layout for the power trees for what I was calling Enhancement and Farseeing.

Enhancement built upon my Force Leap talent by allow a Force Die to be rolled to add successes or advantage to various Brawn and Agility based checks, such as Athletics, Coordination, Stealth, and Resilience, as well as a movement-based effect that drew upon lessons learned from an ill-fated attempt at creating a "Force Speed" power tree in months prior.  The bulk of the power tree were Control Upgrades, with the base power starting at Athletics, and broadening the skills affected with each Control Upgrade on one side and a "Force Speed" effect on the other, with Range Upgrade to allow the user to cross additional Range Bands.

As for Farseeing, the basic power allowed a brief but fuzzy snapshot of events in the near future, with Strength Upgrades to allow more details, Duration Upgrades to look further into the future, and Control Upgrades to look into the past as well as to see the future/past of someone else, or multiple someones if you had enough Magnitude Upgrades.  A base framework, but one that needed a great deal more refinement before they were ready to publish.

Well, as I mentioned in my prior post, I wound up being very pleasantly surprised when I (finally) cracked open my copy of the Age of Rebellion Beta (had to wait until after an EotE run by Sam Stewart before I could retreat to the VIG lounge to actually read the book), and wound up laughing quite a bit at how close I'd gotten in most aspects to what FFG had published, a sentiment that GM Chris of the Order 66 podcast and lead designer Jay Little were both glad to share, and I'm sure a few other folks will too.  To paraphrase Jay, it says something about how simple and intuitive the design of their Star Wars system is when someone totally unrelated is able to independently design concepts that mirror those that the official design team has come up with.

So that fun little anecdote aside, a couple other changes you'll find is that I've broke the new weapons and new gear out into separate pages, adding a few more lightsaber variants such as the double-bladed lightsaber and training lightsaber to the weapons listing.  For the Force-related items, both of the new entries are very heavily slanted towards the Jedi, those being Adegan/Ilum crystals (useful for building one's lightsaber) and the coveted Jedi holocron (which can be damn handy both as an information resource and instructional aide to burgeoning Force-users).

The "Sense Force" minor power has been simplified, with the "sense disturbances" aspect broken out into a separate side bar and being something anyone with a Force Rating of 1 or better can do.  New to this section is the "Resist Force" power, which provides experienced Force-users a way to protect themselves from enemy powers.  That's probably the one element of this latest version that will most likely be in need of further revision or clarification, but I think the core functionality is solid even if it does add yet another measure of complexity to using the Force.

So, hopefully the changes and updates made in this latest version prove agreeable to your group.

August 27, 2013

Post GenCon haze and other fun.

Well, the week of the 12th was indeed quite a week for me.

GenCon 2013 was a lot of fun.  Not as much pick-up gaming as I was hoping, but I did manage to play in sessions of Fantasy Flight Games' Star Wars RPG run by three of the principle designers, those being Sam Stewart, Sterling Hershey, and most amusingly Jay Little.  Even if Jay's pick-up game didn't last long before devolving into an all-out laugh fest, that was probably one of the most entertaining game sessions I've had in quite some time.  Also got to play in the first part of Chris Witt's "Enemy of My Enemy" module, which was a lot of fun.  Swung by the GamerNationStudios booth, where I was glad to hear that their new offering Eons was selling well.  And actually spent a fair amount of time gabbing with some of the crew from the Radio Free Hommlet padcast (GM Tim, GM Kate, and the other GM Chris), which was pretty cool.

I will say this though, the VIG set-up is well worth the money, particularly if you can get folks to help split the cost.  Just the VIG lounge was worth it, as it provided a convenient place to duck away from the con for a little bit to decompress and enjoy a cold beverage.  The giant plush chairs (Xorbes?) were damn comfy, and if I had the room for one in my apartment, I'd so be ordering one of them.  I think I actually dozed off while relaxing in one at some point.  I'm guessing I wasn't snoring, since nobody told me to wake up.  No marker doodles on my face either, so another plus.  The fact that being a VIG gets you into the dealer hall an hour early (but only on the first day) and gets you preferred seating for the costume contest are added perks.

GenCon purchases included the Age of Rebellion Beta (expected), but also Beyond the Rim (unexpected but appreciated) and the Firefly RPG GenCon 2013 Exclusive book (not expected at all but also very much enjoyed) as well as most of the new crop of X-Wing minis (I really need to get this game on the table more often), the Hell on Earth: Reloaded book (got the PDF, but I just like having a physical copy most of the time), and Book of Fire for L5R 4th Edition.

One of the major highlights of GenCon this year had to be simply sitting around a table in the JW Marriot with Jay Little and a couple other d20 Radio forumites (Xphile and Venthrac) and simply gabbing for several hours.  It was supposed to be a pick-up game, but we just got to jawing that after a while we just gave up on gaming and continued jawing.  Hearing the story of Jay being a self-professed "cybernetic zombie" was pretty damn amazing, but also amazing were his thoughts and ideas on game design and running games, including the rather daring notion of simply having a single key word on an index card, introducing that word, and then letting the players come up with the story.

But as sad as I was to see this year's GenCon come to a close, it was nice to get back to my own bed and actually get some real sleep instead of the extended power naps that you're forced to get by on during the convention.  Though I did adhere to the 4-2-1 rule religiously (4 hours of sleep, 2 meals, 1 shower)*, as well as making sure to take vitamins every day plus green tea drink packets.  So while I was tired, I've avoided the dreaded "con crud" (or at least was no worse off than when I left for Indy, damn seasonal allergies).  I wasn't at GenCon last year, but I guess having a bunch of food trucks right new the convention center is new, and it was very welcome.  Now I'm not expert on barbecue (being from New York state and all), but one of them had a phenomenal brisket sandwich for $9 that was freaking huge (could barely hold it with one hand, and I've got some pretty big hands).  So I for one hope the food trucks are now a staple of GenCon, since they're so damn convenient.

So, Age of Rebellion Beta?  Yeah, pretty big deal, and I certainly like what's been offered.  I was very much amused at a couple of items, namely how close Ben "Cyril" Erickson and I got with a few of the species in our work on the Unofficial Species Menagerie (found on the GSA, with one final update in the works) but also that some of the homebrew stuff I'd put into my Ways of the Force bore some striking similarities to the core powers of AoR's two new Force Powers, Enhance and Foresee.  Particularly as I'd take those two elements ("Search Your Feelings" mini power and Burst of Speed talent for my Jedi Initiate spec) and was working on fleshing those out into full-blown power trees, having a rough framework sketched out in a notebook with a few blank spots for Upgrades that needed to be filled in.  And what do I find in AoR when I flip to Force chapter?  Enhance and Foresee, with a layout surprisingly close to what I came up with, which caused me to giggle quite a bit, seeing that in another month or two, I would have most likely come to many of the same conclusions and layout as the designers did.  So in a way, it was a mark of personal pride that I was thinking along the same lines as people who do this sort of thing for a living.

That's not to say I don't have a few (albeit very minor) nitpicks with the AoR Beta, but overall I very much like the new material, particularly the new careers and specializations, with one of them (Soldier/Commando) being spot-on perfect for the veteran Clone Trooper that I played in a Skype game that has sadly faded away.  I might even do a rebuild of Auron using that combo instead of the Hired Gun/Bodyguard/Mercenary Soldier that I wound up going with.  I'm eager to see what feedback prompts changes during the AoR Beta, but overall I feel it's a pretty solid book.  Check out the review I wrote over at the GSA if you don't believe me.

I also did a review of the Firefly RPG that I picked up.  I wasn't wowed with the Serenity RPG (the Cortex system at that point was far too clunky for my liking), but I certainly like the Cortex Plus that it's evolved into.  Dunno if or when I'll ever get it on the table, but I will probably wind up purchasing the full version of the book when it comes out early next year.  And again, a review:

One of the other GenCon highlights was the reaction people had to what I use to store my EotE dice in.  Rather than your typical dice bag, I took an idea presented by an FFG forumite, dug up the plastic Death Star ornament that came with a LEGO mini TIE Interceptor that I'd bought way back in the day, and started keeping my EotE dice in that.  Everyone at each table I brought the Death Star out at got a laugh out it, and quite a few asked "where did you get that?!"  Sadly, I don't think this kit can be found for sale anymore, but here's the page on LEGO's site for it.

Strangely enough, my dice have been rolling pretty good since I started keeping them in the Death Star.  Maybe it's something about unleashing the firepower of this fully-armed and operational dice holder :D

This past Sunday we finally got to kick off a new campaign for the Sunday Star Wars Skype group, in which I am playing a Force-sensitive 'street rat' named Valin Starsmore.  He's an updated version of the character I played in the EotE one-shot that Ben nearly a year ago, accounting for changes in the EotE core rulebook but also for updates in my Jedi Initiate specialization.  I've got a much better handle on how to play the character (he's not quite as borderline neurotic as he was the first time out) but he's certainly a far cry from the self-confidant badasses that I often wind up playing.  I'm sure Valin will grow into a self-confident badass eventually, but it's going to take a while and I'm certain I'll enjoy the journey, looking back on his "newbie" days with fond memories.

Speaking of the Jedi Initiate, I did a pretty major overhaul of the spec, particularly after seeing the layout for Age of Rebellion's Force Sensitive Emergent.  The talents are the same, just they're in different places and the spec no longer feels quite as focused on being a lightsaber expert as the prior layout had.  I also carved out a couple other things from the file to account for the two new AoR Force Powers, and tweaked the Dark Side Acolyte just a bit.  Expect the updated version to drop sometime this weekend, most likely Saturday.

Well, that's enough blathering from me for one post.  Keep an eye on the GSA, as I've got a few AoR-themed Heroes on Demand entries in the works, some more "Exploring the Galactic Rim" entries under Equipment Labs on the horizon, as well as at least a couple more RPG reviews and even a new series of articles discussing the careers found in Edge of the Empire and Age of Rebellion.

*Thank you Radio Free Hommlet for this wonderful piece of advice.

August 12, 2013

Looks like it's gonna be quite a week

Well, for starters, I'm another year older today.  How much wiser is up for debate though.

As of Friday, FFG has announced that (much to my surprise) they are doing an Age of Rebellion Beta for their Star Wars Roleplaying product line, much as they did with Edge of the Empire.  Given the very aggressive testing window (ends in the middle of October), I imagine they'll have copies for sale at GenCon.  You can ready Brian "Fiddleback" Casey's GSA article about the upcoming AoR Beta here:

To be honest, I figured that once the basic dice rules had been nailed down as of the EotE Beta, I figured that FFG wasn't going to do Beta rulebooks for AoR much less Force & Destiny.  But, if they are doing an AoR Beta, then that means a F&D Beta is probably also in the cards.  Which means we've only got to wait until 2014 for FFG to pull back the curtain on full-blown Force-users such as the Jedi.

Speaking of Force-users, I've been working on some additions and revisions to my Ways of the Force fan supplement.  One of the major changes was revising the layout of the Jedi Initiate, as there were a few things about it that were bugging me.  However, with the prospect of another Force-sensitive specialization in Age of Rebellion (the Force Sensitive Emergent), I may wind up revisiting and revising all three of my Force-Sensitive specializations, particularly if there are new talents in the AoR Beta that look to be a solid fit for them.

I've also been working on a prototype for a Farseeing power, but that might be all for naught depending on what new Force powers we get in Age of Rebellion.  I'll just have to wait a few more days and see.  The power as I've currently got it requires a fair amount of GM adjudication, but that's generally been true of Farseeing in all the prior Star Wars RPGs from D6 to Saga Edition.  There's not much in the way of Upgrades to be purchased (2 Control, 2 Range, 1 Duration, 1 Strength), but that's fine as well, but it's also more expensive to activate, especially if you want detailed information and want to see something other than than a snapshot of the present.

Also been working on the "Fallen Stars" module, a backer-only reward for the recent Order 66 Kickstarter.  Not quite as far along as I'd like (frankly, I'd like to be done with the module), but I've made pretty good headway.  As is the standard for the RPG market, I won't give any kind of target date for when it'll be completed or sent to the backers; the latter especially as that decision will be up to Chris and Dave.  The only thing that I'll commit to is that it should be in folks' hands well before the end of the year.

Sadly, a lot of my mental bandwidth has been taken up by my day job.  To be honest, I'm amazed that I was able to handle a three-person workload by myself for over a month without having a nervous breakdown, though it did mean a lot of days where all I wanted to do after getting home was crawl into bed.  Thankfully, a few job positions have been filled, which means the strain on me should be reduced by a decent amount.  Which also means I won't be as mentally drained when it comes time to working on various RPG-related projects.

But, as mentioned previously, GenCon!  This will be my third year going (I seem to alternate years due to the expenses involved in both airfare and hotel), and oddly the first year where I deliberately don't have things on my schedule for every single day.  I'm hoping that with a looser schedule, there will be the opportunity for me to get into some pick-up games, be it Star Wars (Saga Edition or EotE, either one is good) or Dresden Files or maybe even some Marvel Heroic RPG.

On the subject of RPGs, while the Sunday Saga Edition Skype game came to a pretty epic close and the Sunday EotE Skype game that's going to take its place is on the horizon, I've still been able to get some face-to-face gaming in, mostly D&D 4e (Dark Sun setting) on Wednesdays as well as bouts of 7th Seas or 4th Edition Legend of the Five Rings on Saturdays.  Granted, there's been some schedule issues making it tough to get everyone together some weekends, but not enough to warrant putting the group on hold thankfully; I've seen too many gaming groups wither and die after being put in "indefinite hiatus."  While I've not run anything beyond a few one-shots of EotE for the Saturday group, there was some excitement out of the prospect of Age of Rebellion, so maybe I'll be able to get a mini-campaign going for that.  If so, I may very well wind up using several of the many WEG Star Wars adventures and simply adapting them on the fly to FFG's Star Wars system.  But we'll have to wait and see how that plays.  Could be that I run a single session, enough of the group decides they really don't like the system, and that'll end my GMing stint real quick.

July 12, 2013

Ways of the Force, Version 1.03

Okay,. short and sweet, new version of my "Ways of the Force" fan supplement for Fantasy Flight Games' Star Wars: Edge of the Empire RPG.

Seeing as how the final version of the EotE rules have been released and the core rulebooks are finding their way into people's hands, I thought a week after the formal release would be a good time to get a spiffed-up new version of my homebrew expansion to the Force out there for folks to see, read, and use if enough of the material tickles their fancy.

Most of the changes are related to formatting to try and bring the look a tad more in line with how talent trees appear in EotE, mostly by adding a tag with the XP cost of a given talent or upgrade rather than an column listing the XP value.  A couple sidebars got revamped, specifically the ones for Healing and about allowing the Jedi Initiate Force-Sensitive specialization in one's game.

Healing also got revised, particularly the ability to heal a Critical Injury.  A couple folks felt that as it was originally written, it was far too powerful, and I do have to agree.  I also hope the sidebar is a little more clear on how the Magnitude Upgrades (renamed from Duration Upgrades based upon my reading and re-evaluation of those Upgrades as presented in the core rulebook).

The major piece of new material that I added a page of new gear towards the very end.  There's not a whole lot there, just some items I thought would be neat additions, such as short lightsabers aka shoto, the wan-shen, and things like force training aids (useful for your self-taught exiles) and a nod to one of my favorite in-universe products.

In other EotE related news, a few more articles of mine have been posted at the Gamer Security Agency, such as Zubesh, a Bounty Hunter/Survivalist/Force Sensitive Exile that's an apprentice Gand Findsman, who was a fun character to build for the ongoing Heroes on Demand column.  There's also a new entry in the Equipment Lab - Exploring the Galactic Fringe segment, and there will be more to come in the following weeks, so stay tuned to the GSA for more articles.

As a good number of you have probably heard, Chris and Dave of the Order 66 podcast have a Kickstarter running to help fund their efforts to replace their aging and increasingly obsolete podcasting equipment with shiny and more modern gear.  They were only looking for $1000, and they are fast approaching the $5000 mark.  Dave has made it pretty clear that the excess money raised will be spent towards further upgrading their podcasting gear and to covering server costs, so if you enjoy not listening to the Order 66 podcast and/or using the d20 Radio Forums, consider tossing a few bucks their way.  Check it out here:

Order 66 Kickstater
Now as part of their stretch goals, I was asked to write an exclusive module for Edge of the Empire as a backer reward.  It should come as no surprise that I said yes (admittedly I did make sure that I'd have the time available to write the adventure; nothing worse than saying you'll do something only to find out it's needed sooner than you have the time to work on it).  Called "Fallen Stars," I hope it will be a fun adventure that's a bit of a break from the typical seedy underworld adventures that have been put together so far.  My particular stretch goal has been met, so I guess I'll need to get writing.

Also on the adventure front, I've been dragging my feet in getting my SWSE-to-EotE conversion of the excellent introductory adventure "A Much Larger Galaxy...:" finished.  I've only got a few vehicle stat blocks to write-up and then it's done, but I seem to keep getting distracted by this wonderful EotE core rulebook that's sitting next to my desk.  Now that the most recent revision to Ways of the Force is completed, that should free up some mental bandwidth for me to get this adventure done and out the door.

And with that out of the way, here's the link to Version 1.03 of Ways of the Force
Ways of the Force, Version 1.03

July 4, 2013

The Fourth (of July) be with you...

First off, happy 4th of July to my fellow Americans

Next up, to those of you who've already gotten your hands on the newly-released Edge of the Empire core rulebook... I despise you.

In all seriousness, good for you folks that have the book, and I regret that a shipping snafu that affected my FLGS is all that prevents me from reading said book on this day.  Between what I've read, either at the Gamer Security Agency with their "peak at the EotE rulebook" article or FFG's introduction video for what is "Episode 1" of their "Star Wars roleplaying experience," I've got a fair idea of what to expect.  I'll admit to having done a pause of the video and comparing the talent tree pages shown to what the Final Week Beta Updates indicated they should be, and it looks like the majority of the rules crunch is the same.

You can read FFG's latest news blurb and watch the video here:

And long-time veteran Star Wars RPG designer Sterling Hershey also weighed in with his thoughts about the release of the EotE core rulebook, which you can read here:

So what does this mean for the fan projects that I've put together so far and the ones I still have in the works?  Short version, only some minor changes will be needed to bring things up to speed with the core rulebook, such as skill names (Deceit becoming Deception, for instance) and updating page reference numbers for the official talents in my "Ways of the Force" fan supplement.

Now that's not to say Ben "Cyril" Erickson and I won't decide to add a few more species once it does come time to post an updated version of our "Unofficial Species Menagerie" document.  Although at this point I'm not sure what species we really have left to cover; there's already 52 different species for use in your Edge of the Empire campaigns, which for most players and GMs are probably plenty enough right there.

While some of the initial frenzy regarding my "Ways of the Force" supplement has subsided (after all, it's been a over a month since the last update), there's still some interest, and I imagine the interest will pick back up as more folks are able to buy the EotE core rulebook rather than the smaller group of folks that were able to purchase the Beta rulebook.  I may play around with the color selections used for the talent trees depending on how exactly FFG has things color-coded in the rulebook.  Sadly, my graphic design skills are incredibly limited, so getting the specializations to look like the professional-quality designs in the core rulebook is probably not going to happen.  I may wind up publishing v1.03 with just the minor tweaks I've already mentioned, and then see about any design revamps for v1.04.

Another EotE-related project that I've been working on is a Word 2007 form-fillable character sheet.  I was hoping to be able to embed fonts, but it would seem the fonts that I really want to embed won't stick.  I've done plenty of web searches for aid, but it seems that embedding fonts just won't work when the fonts are fan-created files, at least not for Word 2007.  So I guess it's back to the old stand-by of simply including a copy of the fonts in the zip file with a note to install them.  Which is a shame, as I would have loved to have the EotE font that FFG forum user Aazlain created.

In non-EotE related things, I received my copy of the FATE Accelerated Edition book.  It's a tiny little thing, but I must say I'm awfully impressed.  Stay tuned to the GSA for my thoughts on it.  I can see a lot of potential in this very streamllined version of FATE, and I'm eager to see how the FAE version of the Dresden Files RPG shakes out in a year or two.

In just under a month and a half, there will be GenCon 2013.  I'm definitely looking forward to going, mostly to meet up, hang out and game with various members of the d20 Radio family.  I'll definitely be playing some EotE in two of FFG's official events, but mostly I'll be on the lookout for pick-up games.  I may very well throw something together for FAE, given how easy it is to run (much less fiddly bits to worry about that Dresden Files).

Speaking of, the final pieces are starting to fall into place for a Friday night Skype game of Dresden Files campaign, in which I will be playing a wereworlf that's on "detached duty" as part of the Alpha's "outreach program" in conjunction with the Paranet.

And after more than a year, the Sunday night Star Wars Saga Edition campaign in which I play will be coming to a close this month.  Even though we've had a number of scheduling issues (tricky thing, getting five people in different parts of the country online at the same time), the campaign has been a blast, from Rikoshi's antics as Kirry, the Squib "entrepreneur" to the development of Nateal's technophile Force-user Niera to what had to be one of the best death scenes for any character that I've played, one that had a major impact on the rest of the party.  Or at least, that's my take on it seeing as how the party's recently acquired space cruiser was named posthumously after Rann Antilles.  It also gave me the chance to (somewhat briefly) step back into the role of my NJO character Alwyn Reezaki, a young Jedi Knight that has found himself in the Legacy Era, with everything and everyone he's known being either dead or gone.

But in the closing of one campaign, a new one will start, this one being an Edge of the Empire campaign, in which I will reprise another character role, that of Valin Starsmore, a slightly off-kilter young Force-user with a major sweet tooth (not quite at the level of Death Note's L, but not that far off either) and a fascination with busty Twi'leks;then again, what male in Star Wars doesn't have a fascination with busty Twi'leks?  It will be interesting to go from a powerful Jedi Knight like Alwyn in Saga Edition to a neophyte such as Valin, but I think seeing Valin develop over time will be a reward in and of itself.  It will also be interesting to see what sort of characters the rest of the group plays, though I did put a bug in Nateal's ear about on particular suggestion, one that she seemed agreeable to, but we'll see how it plays out.

So until next time, stay safe and may the Force be with you.

June 21, 2013

Long overdue for an update

Honestly, I had meant to be a little more punctual in updating this blog. But, you know that saying about the plans of mice and men, right?  Yeah.

So, what's been going on?  Frankly, not a whole lot really.  Been playing a fair amount of AEG products, namely Legend of the Five Rings (4th edition) and 7th Seas, as well as a bi-weekly D&D 4e game that's (currently at least) set in Dark Sun, though the GM has dropped a hint or two that he may shift the setting on us in the nearer-than-we-might-think future.

I've haven't done that much regarding my Ways of the Force supplement since v1.02, other than updating a few skill names to match up with what the non-Beta EotE core rulebook is using, which is pretty darn minor and not really worth publishing as an updated version.  Also looking at revising the wording of the Healing and Injure Control Upgrades, particularly where Force Point costs are concerned, as well as re-evaluating where I've placed the ability to use the Healing power to remove a critical injury.  Much as I really don't want to, I'm thinking said upgrade will wind up on the 5th Row simply to maintain some sense of balance and to keep critical injuries from being something a concern for most groups even if the have a Force Healer.  At least with it being a 5th Row talent, it'll take a decent amount of XP to obtain said ability.

I did get the chance to partake in Free RPG Day, though the only items I picked up was a custom Free RPG Day d6 and FFG's "Shadows of a Black Sun" module.  If you're curious as to my thoughts about the module, you can read them over at the GSA in the write-up I did.

It was a pretty fun adventure, though sadly I lost the business card that had the e-mail address of the gentleman that ran it, so hopefully he stumbles upon that article and sees the praise that I gave him for the excellent job he did running the adventure, especially with a table of players that, sans me, had no prior experience with the system.

Mostly, I've been working.  A lot.  Like nearly an extra week's worth of overtime kind of a lot.  Granted, the extra money will be nice once August rolls around as that will give me some extra spending funds for GenCon this year.  And with the way work had been going (roller coaster much?), I'm really looking forward to GenCon, mostly for a chance to meet & greet folks from the d20 Radio forums.

Other EotE-related things I've been doing are revamping the EotE form-fillable Word character sheet that I snagged from the FFG EotE Beta forums several months ago.  Most of the focus was in making it look prettier, but I've also been tweaking it to include a column for listing out a character's dice pool courtesy of an EotE-based font that I picked up from the same EotE Beta forums, a font that turns out you can embed in a document, something I wasn't aware off how to do until fellow d20 Radio forumite Awayputyrwpn pointed it out to GM Chris and myself.  You can see the non-dice pool version in Phil aka Darth GM's most recent GSA article, this one discussing the process of converting an existing character over to a new system (in this case, Saga Edition over to Edge of the Empire).  It's pretty interesting to see the challenges of such a task laid out, especially if you're one of those GMs who is thinking of doing the same thing.

I've also been taking a fresh look at the Unofficial Species Menagerie, which again I've updated (but not released) to include the updated skill names, but also taking a second look at a number of the species, in particular the Falleen and the Zeltrons with their respective Pheromone abilities.  A bit of a spoiler, but the "Shadows of a Black Sun" adventure does feature a Falleen NPC as an antagonist, giving them a quality called "Allelochemical Transmitters."  That's cool and all, just the problem is that it's a species ability that anyone can already do in the EotE rules, that being spending Threat generated on a roll to inflict a point of Strain on a one-per-one basis.  That doesn't mean I couldn't take advantage of the idea and spin it off into something that actually is a special species ability.

Right now, I'm looking at allowing a Falleen character the ability to spend an Action to make a Deception check against a single target within Short Range, with each success generated by the Falleen inflicting one point of Strain; Threat and Advantage would be spent normally as the player (or NPC) sees fit.  It's opposed by Discipline, which I think fits that most folks that are able to resist a Falleen's phenomenal charms do so through willpower.  I also added a "if you don't have to breathe or are using a breath mask, you're good" caveat.  It still might be too powerful though.

For the Zeltron, I'm looking at expanding their Pheromones ability to apply a boost die on any Charm, Deception, or Negotiation checks made against targets at Short Range.  Certainly beefs the ability up from it's currently published version (limited to Engaged, only Charm or Deceit checks), and makes it more worth the reduced Starting XP that Zeltrons get.  I thought about making their Pheromones the ability to remove a setback die, but there's already talents that negate setback dice to those checks.  Empathy also needed a bit of cleaning up in terms of how it applies.  Not sure if this revised Pheromones ability is too good, and I may wind up dropping the free rank in Charm to offset it.

The last EotE-related project I've been trying to finish up is a conversion of the excellent fan made Star Wars Saga Edition adventure "A Much Larger Galaxy."  I've only had to make a few tweaks to the NPCs to account for the differences in systems, something that was a pleasant surprise.  Of course, doing the system conversions in my head while running is a lot easier than typing it all up and making it look better than just a bunch of hastily-thrown together notes.

I was hoping to begin delving into the hows and whys of the three Force-sensitive specializations I created, but that may have to wait until I reach a point where my brain hasn't been bludgeoned into clay by the day job.  Though at the rate things are going, my next update might not be until after the EotE core rulebook is released.  FFG had said they were targeting the first week in July, and I really hope that remains the case.  The previews I've seen of the book so far really make me want to own a copy, even if I already do have most of the crunch material courtesy of the Beta rulebook and the Final Week Beta Update.

May 31, 2013

Blaster Deflection 101 for Edge of the Empire.

Howdy, and a happy Friday and end-of-the-month to you.

Hopefully a fair number of folks that are interested in such things have checked out the latest version of my Ways of the Force fan supplement for FFG's soon-to-be released Edge of the Empire RPG.

There were some significant changes between the initial release version and the current version (1.02), and I'm planning on at least one more revision, which will be shortly after the actual EotE corebook gets released, and will consist of updating the page references (and possibly some talent names) to match said corebook rather than the Beta rulebook.

One of the bigger changes was a total revision of how the talent Deflect Blasters worked.  And it's met with a few questions on why the change, both in forums and direct/private messages.  So I thought I'd try and shed some insight.

The whole notion of a "blaster deflection" talent got it's start thanks to Chris "GM Chris" Witt of the Order 66 Podcast, the first podcast dedicated solely to Star Wars RPGs.  Chris had started a forum thread over at the d20 Radio forums about his ideas for a "blaster deflection" talent.  There was quite a bit of back and forth between him, myself, and other posters such as Awayptyrwpn and Phil "DarthGM" Maiewski, with different suggestions and approaches on how to reflect such a classic Jedi ability within the framework of EotE's rules.

For reference, here's the effect text for my take from version 1.0:

Once per round, when the character is targeted by a ranged attack, upgrade the difficulty a number of times equal to character’s Lightsaber skill rank. If this attack was made using a blaster and generates 2 Threat or 1 Despair, the character can deal the weapon’s base damage to a single target within Medium range. The character must be actively wielding a lightsaber staggered (see pg141) in order to activate this talent.  This talent cannot be used against a ranged attack made using a starship-scale weapon.

Okay, first problem is that by the time the Jedi Initiate gets this talent, they've probably got at least 4 ranks in the Lightsaber skill, if not 5 by this point.  So this means once per round, the Jedi gets to force a bunch of difficulty upgrades on a single target, turning what could be a very simple shot at medium range (base of 2 difficulty dice) into a very difficult shot, with the difficulty now being 3 challenge dice (assuming 4 ranks in Lightsaber) plus 2 setback dice from Lightsaber Defense.  And that's not counting other means of increasing the difficulty of a ranged attack, such as Dodge (which also activates as a reaction to being attacked) or Side Step (does require a maneuver to set up), or most likely for a Jedi-in-training, the "danger sense" Control Upgrade for the Sense Power, granting at least one difficulty upgrade, or maybe two if the Strength Upgrade has been purchased.  In a one-on-one fight, the Jedi has a huge advantage over a ranged attacker, and with that many challenge and setback dice, having the attack miss and provide the necessary Threat or Despair to trigger a free attack is a pretty sure thing.

So yeah, this was turning out be problematic, and fell into the category of being "too good to pass up."  In the v1.0 set-up for the Jedi Initiate talent tree, I buried Deflect Blasters in the top row away from the Force Rating talent, but that just delayed the inevitable of a pretty broken talent entering the game.  Based on feedback I'd gotten from the FFG and d20 Radio forums, I decided to start from scratch on designing my Deflect Blasters talent.  I'd initially balked at the notion, but the more I read the dice rules in the Beta rulebook, the more sense that using a competitive check made.  It was simple to apply (no extra difficulty upgrades), and simply relied upon the Jedi scoring on more success than the guy shooting at them to succeed.  I did a brief bit of playtesting and some dice math review, and overall this looked to be an ideal solution to the dilemma of creating a talent that allowed for ranged attack deflection and blaster attack reflection, but wasn't super-powerful.  And here's the current text:

Once per round, when the character is targeted by aranged attack, the character can activate this talent to make a competitive check against the same base difficulty, using their Lightsaber skill against the attacker’s combat skill, with a successful check resulting in the attack not dealing any damage. If the attack was made using a blaster, then on a successful check the character can choose to target a single target within Medium range, dealing damage equal to the damage value of the original attacker’s weapon, with each remaining success adding to the damage total. The character must be actively wielding a lightsaber and aware of the attack in order to activate this talent. This talent cannot be used against starship-mounted weapons

Now, looking at the text I wrote with slightly fresh eyes, I can see where some concern might come up that my current version of Deflect Blasters looks too weak, especially when compared to the prior version.  After all, a really good marksman has a decent shot at beating out a Jedi Initiate on that opposed check... but I also think that's how it should be.  Granted, in a lot of the Star Wars media we see Jedi casually deflecting blaster fire like it's no big deal, but consider most of the time the Jedi in question are A) fighting mooks who barely pose a threat, and B) the Jedi in question are either seasoned Knights or gifted prodigies, so of course it's going to look easy.

Maybe a few in-game examples of how this would work out might help to demonstrate why I think this current version of Deflect Blasters works a lot better and isn't quite as weak as some might think.  For this example, I'll be using a vastly experienced version of my initial EotE PC, a young Jedi Initiate-on-the-run by the name of Valin Starsmore.  His relevant stats are thus:

Agility 3
Soak Value 3 (Brawn 2 + heavy clothing)
Lightsaber 4 (he's gotten pretty good at this point)
Lightsaber Defense 2 (giving him a +2 bonus to melee & ranged defense)
Deflect Blasters (recently acquired)
Quick Draw (his staring career/spec is Smuggler/Scoundrel)
Sense Power with the "danger sense" Control Upgrade and the Duration Upgrade.

Example 1: Valin is snooping around the streets near a crime-lord's private estate, looking to find out what happened to his friend Gizmo, a slightly odd Twi'lek bounty hunter that has been missing since she went to the crime lord's estate.  His Jedi senses (pretty well-honed thanks to 2 ranks each in Uncanny Senses and Uncanny Reactions) alerts him to the presence of a trio of guards (stats as per Apprentice Hunter on pg201 of the Beta, but equipped with heavy blaster pistols and having Perception as one of their skills).  Seeing as how the guards have their blasters drawn and pointed at Valin, he wastes little time, drawing and igniting his lightsaber (an Incidental thanks to Quick Draw) then activating his combat awareness (activating his Control Upgrade to let him upgrade the difficulty twice of two separate attacks against him each round).  The guards are at Medium range currently, but the foliage that Valin was hoping would obscure him also counts as difficult terrain; he won't be charging into the fray just yet.

The minion group of guards now get to act, and they waste little time in taking aim with their blasters and opening fire on the young Jedi.  They're at Medium range, so they're base difficulty is 2 purple dice, with 2 setback dice applied from Valin's two ranks in Lightsaber Defense.  Not wanting to get perforated with blaster fire quite so soon, Valin opts to use both his Deflect Blasters talent and his danger sense ability.  The minion group will be rolling 2 proficiency, 1 ability die, and 1 boost die (Agility 3 for base of 3 ability dice, two upgrades for each minion after the first, and a boost die from aiming) against a difficulty of 1 challenge die, 1 difficulty die, and 2 setback dice.  Valin meanwhile will only be rolling against 2 difficulty dice with a pool of 3 proficiency dice and 1 ability die.

Results are:
Valin: 4 successes, 1 failure, 2 advantage, 3 threat (net result = 3 successes, 1 threat)
Guards: 2 successes, 1 failure, 3 advantage, 5 threat (net result = 1 success, 2 threat)

Valin wins with 2 successes, but suffers a point of Strain (from the 1 Threat) as he frantically intercepts the incoming blaster fire, managing to deflect one of the bolts back to deal 9 damage to the minion group.  That's enough damage to drop one of the guards (Soak 3, Wound Threshold 5), with GM applying the 2 Threat as a setback die to the group's next attack roll.  One down, two to go, but Valin knows he's going to have to act quick before reinforcements arrive...

Example 2: Having dispatched those pesky guards, Valin has now found his way inside the crime lord's main villa, but has found proof that Gizmo is on the premises; the busty Twi'lek hunter is in trouble, and Valin's not about to let down one of the few friends he has.  The Force is with Valin, and he finds both the crime boss and Gizmo, with the Twi'lek lashed to some type of automated torture rack while the Bothan crime boss is leisurely sipping from a wine goblet while asking a series of questions, with a surly-looking Trandoshan standing not too far off.  Deciding it's time to act, Valin activates his lightsaber, the distinctive snap-hiss of the weapon getting the attention of both the Bothan crime boss and the Trandoshan.  Luckily Valin was already prepped for a fight (having activated the Control Upgrade for his Sense Power), as the crime boss manages to score more successes than Valin on their respective Vigilance checks, though Valin does have 2 advantage that the GM lets him spend to give himself a boost dice on his next roll.

The crime boss (a Nemesis) has Agility 3 and 3 ranks of Ranged (Light), as well as the Quick Draw talent, enabling him to stand up (maneuver), draw his heavy blaster pistol (incidental) and fire at the interloping Jedi, who is at Short Range (1 difficulty).  Again not wanting to get shot, Valin applies one of his two uses of danger sense towards the crime boss' shot as well as his one use of Deflect Blasters (the lack of an obvious blaster and the oversized vibrodagger on the Trandoshan's hip suggests a melee threat).

The crime boss' dice pool is 3 proficiency dice, 1 challenge die, and 2 setback dice.  Vallin's dice pool is 3 proficiency dice, 1 ability die, 1 boost die, 1 challenge die, 1 difficulty and 1 setback die.  The crime boss has two ranks in Adversary, and Valin's Lightsaber check is targeting him, so the talent would apply, plus the crime boss has armored clothing to grant a free rank of defense .  Valin decides to bolster his chances by flipping a Destiny Point to upgrade his remaining ability die to a proficiency die.

Results are:
Valin: 1 triumph, 4 successes, 2 failure, 3 advantage, 1 threat (net result = 3 successes, 2 advantage, and a triumph result; i.e. the kid got one hell of a good roll)
Crime Boss: 4 successes, 1 failure, 1 advantage, 3 threat (net result = 3 successes, 2 threat)

Since Valin and the crime boss got the same number of successes, it's a draw.  In this case, Valin didn't get hit, but neither did he get to redirect the blaster shot back at the crime boss.  The crime boss suffers 2 Strain from the Threat, while Valin uses his 2 Advantage for a free maneuver to engage the crime boss in melee, and that Triumph to narrate that instead of hitting the crime boss, the deflected blaster shot instead pegged the torture rack that Gizmo is on, giving her an upgrade to whatever skill check she wants to make to escape.  Which might be good since that Trandoshan's got a nasty sneer as he reaches for his vibroknife...

Example 3: With some help from a badly injured Gizmo, the crime boss and his Trandoshan bodyguard have both been dispatched, though Valin suffered a few cuts from the big lizard's vibroknife during the fight.  Now, they need to get to the villa's speeder hanger to steal a ride so they can make a quick escape and rendezvous with Omaha and his YT-1300.

Unfortunately, Valin's Obligation came up prior to the start of the adventure, and the Bounty on his head has caught the attention of a Journeyman Hunter (pg201 of the Beta) who traded out his disruptor rifle for a blaster rifle and has a pair of Street Toughs (pg199) packing blaster pistols.for some added muscle; after all, the Empire pays good credits for Jedi renegades, and the toughs were dim-witted enough to accept only a fraction of the reward on Valin's head.

Valin's Force senses alert him to the danger a few scant second before the bounty hunter opens fire (his Vigilance check beat the hunter's Cool check by a wide margin), so he's got just enough time to draw his lightsaber and activate his danger sense while quickly moving behind some foliage for cover.  The bounty hunter spends a maneuver to Aim before squeezing the trigger on his rifle.

The bounty hunter and Valin are at Medium range from one another.  Figuring the bounty hunter's the bigger threat than the pair of street toughs, Valin is going to yet again use Deflect Blasters (while wondering why everybody is so keen on shooting at him today) as well as his danger sense to make the hunter's shot that much harder.  However, the GM decides to spend a Destiny Point to upgrade one of the hunter's ability dice for this shot.

So the journeyman hunter is rolling 2 proficiency dice, 1 ability die, 1 boost die, 1 challenge die, 1 difficulty die, and 3 setback dice.  Valin's rolling his usual 3 proficiency dice, 1 ability die, but 1 challenge die and 1 difficulty die due to the hunter having a rank in Adversary.

Results are:
Valin: 3 successes, 2 advantage, 2 failure, 0 threat (net result = 1 success, 1 advantage)
Hunter: 3 successes, 1 advantage, 1 failure, 3 threat (net result = 2 successes, 2 threat)

Valin's luck runs out, and the hunter clips his shoulder, dealing 10 damage (base 9 for the rifle, +1 for the remaining Success after applying the 1 Success from Valin's check.  Given Valin's low Soak Value (he's quick, not brawny, that's gonna leave a mark!  Good thing he's got some stimpacks on hand, as he's gonna need them if this keeps up.  Gizmo grumbles about this being "some rescue" as she takes aim with the heavy blaster pistol she looted from the deceased crime boss.

So I hope these not-so-little examples show some insight into why Deflect Blasters isn't the end-all and be-all talent that it was initially.  While I won't type them out here, I did run each of the above examples using the original version, which for Valin would force 4 difficulty upgrades on his selected adversary.  The guards would have been rolling against 4 challenge dice, the crime boss against 3 challenge and 1 difficulty, and the journeyman hunter also against 4 challenge dice.  Let's just say the odds greatly favored Valin in each scenario, and out of several test dice rolls, he only took damage once (against the crime boss) while the rest of the time he not only avoided damage, but also got the free attack as the bad guys rolled enough Threat for him to trigger that part of the original Deflect Blasters.

Now, one thing to also consider is that Valin was able to make use of his Sense upgrade as well to boost up his defenses.  Granted, things might have gone a bit more in his favor if he had the Strength Upgrade on his Sense power; maybe he'll buy that one with the XP he's earned from this adventure and put that Force Rating talent off for another day...

May 25, 2013

Ways of the Force v1.02

Judging by the number of page hits since it's debut on May the Fourth, it would indeed seem that my Ways of the Force fan supplement for Fantasy Flight Games' upcoming Star Wars: Edge of the Empire RPG is quite popular.

I've also gotten some really good feedback on both the d20 Radio Network and FFG EotE forums, which has in turn lead to a few corrections and some revisions to the supplement.  There were a few things that looked really good on paper that didn't quite stand up to scrutiny on the gaming table, with Deflect Blasters being far more cumbersome than I was hoping and the new Healing power being too good as just a couple of prime examples.

Ways of the Force v1.02

I won't bore you with the details (at least not this time around), so here's the highlight reel:

- Deflect Blasters is now a competitive check.

- Lightsaber Defense now works within the mechanics for Defense.

- Dark Side's Embrace has been replaced with a more useful entry.

- A narrative-based set of guidelines for determining if a Force-user has fallen to the dark side.

- Jedi Initiate specialization has had several talents shuffled around.

- The Healing power has been toned down in its effectiveness.

- The Injure basic power has been revised and the power tree reworked.

- Search Your Feelings minor power now provides a tangible use for additional LS points.

As mentioned above and in my prior post, the feedback I've received so far has been both positive and informative, so I'm curious to see what sort of reception these changes get.  Hopefully I've solved several issues without creating too many new ones in their place, but we'll just have to see.