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.