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.