November 30, 2014

Star Wars - The Force Awakens: My thoughts thus far

If you weren't aware of the release of the teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, then I'm pretty surprised you're reading this blog post.

I won't bother linking directly to the trailer itself, since social media has pretty much been bombarded with links aplenty.

There's also been a lot of folks giving their two bullet's worth* on the trailer and dissecting it like a frog in a high school biology class.

Frankly, though he was a bit salty language-wise about it, I think that Kevin Smith generally has the right idea in regards to the teaser trailer: Shut the F*&$ up and rejoice at the fact we're getting brand new Star Wars movies!

I remember seeing the teaser trailer for The Phantom Menace, and when it ended with the iconic Vader breath I was pretty darn excited.  Granted, said movie had it's flaws (overuse of Jar Jar Binks and Jake Lloyd's horrific acting**), but I thought that for the most part, it delivered the goods, particularly the big lightsaber battle at the end.  Which, with be being a major league fan of most things Jedi, should surprise nobody.  I was the guy in a Star Wars RPG group that typically played a Force user, getting to the point that with one group, anytime we started up a new WEG campaign I was the guy designated to be the token Jedi given how well I knew the rules on the Force (sometimes even better than the GM did).  My first PC in each new Star Wars RPG had been a Jedi, with FFG's system only bucking that trend due to not having Jedi rules; wound up playing a Force Exile though.

I've seen some folks whine and kavitch about the cross-hilt lightaber we see in the trailer, and how "it's not realistic!" or "it's not practical!"  First, realism in Star Wars is at best a happy accident; those movies break the laws of physics faster than I can rip into a bag of gummy bears (and I freaking love gummy bears, especially the ones made in Germany with actual fruit juice instead of fruit flavoring).  Secondly, there were similar complaints when the trailers spoiled the fact that Darth Maul had a double-bladed lightsaber, and about the one point that most fans agree upon is that the battle sequence of Maul vs. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan was the highlight of the film, particularly the Obi-Wan vs. Maul sequence after Qui-Gon is mortally injured.  I've got a clip of just that whole fight sequence that I ripped from YouTube, and have watched it plenty of times.

The rolling ball droid doesn't bother me on bit, nor does the blocky speeder design that one girl is riding.  And maybe there was a bit of lens flare while the Falcon is flying about, but it wasn't horrific (not nearly as bad as it got in the New!Trek films at least), and frankly that last sequence was what made the trailer for me.

So in short, I enjoyed the teaser trailer, and if there'd been a theater in my area showing it, I may well have gone to that theater to see it on the big screen.  I'd probably also stay for the movie, as given the price of movie tickets if I'm going to shell out that much cash then I'm going to stay for the entire freaking movie.

Now, the question that really needs addressing is: Can December 2015 get here fast enough?

Oh, a few of fan-made parody trailers that I've come across and enjoyed...

Disney Version:

George Lucas "Revised" Version:

George Lucas Special Edition Version:

LEGO Version:

*I blame the old Deadlands Mailing List for that one, since that's where I picked it up.
**Yes, I know he was a kid but there are child actors around his age that can actually freaking act.  I don't know whose grandkid he was, but he makes Hayden's turn as Anakin in Episode II almost tolerable by comparison.

October 28, 2014

Force and Destiny: On Lightsabers and Duels

Been meaning to get this one typed up for a while, just kept getting sidetracked for one reason or another.

I remember quite some time back, there was a lot of concern of lightsaber duels being far too deadly in FFG's Star Wars RPG, particularly with lightsabers in that game being Damage 10, Critical 1, and Breach 1 weapons, ensuring that the target was going to take a lot of damage and suffer a pretty nasty critical injury in the process.  There were a number of proposed "solutions" to this problem, with the most frequent one being to simply have lightsabers upgrade the difficulty twice (rolling two Challenge dice as the base for a Lightsaber combat check) to avoid the "first hit = victor" scenario that became a major issue for the WEG D6 Star Wars RPG in regards to the Lightsaber Combat power in the hands of a highly capable Force user.

Personally, I felt the real problem was that lightsabers in EotE and AoR were simply way too good, and should have been toned down to something more reasonable than "near-instant death on a stick."  I think the reaction of my GM for the (now on hiatus) Rascal Squad Age of Rebellion campaign in the session immediately after he allowed Valin to assemble a lightsaber of his own, having earned a suitable focusing crystal by completing a series of "trials" during the GM's modified running of the "Echoes of the Past" fan module.  He was rather shocked at how quickly Valin, who was not a major contributor to combat encounters compared to the rest of the group, had gone from "kid with a blaster" to "kid capable of wiping out minion groups in a single round" or "kid capable of crippling important adversaries with only marginal degrees of success."  After we finally concluded the last portion of Long Arm of the Hutt, the GM confided in me that he was starting to really regret letting Valin have such a powerful weapon afterwards.

Luckily, that session took place just before GenCon 2014 and the release of the Force and Destiny Beta.  One of the first things I noticed in the equipment chapter was that the Basic Lightsaber was far less powerful than the EotE/AoR lightsaber, with the damage nearly halved, the critical rating doubled, and a lack of the Vicious quality with the cost only being reduced by several hundred credits.  And that the other lightsaber types were of a similar vein; Breach 1 remained to make them dangerous, but these were not the "one-hit kill" weapons that the lightsabers in the prior books had the reputation of being.  What was interesting was that if the PC was willing to invest the time and resources (and had a bit of luck on their side), they could modify a basic lightsaber into being the potent weapon, so the option was there, though certainly not easy to achieve (at least not before the Beta Update #4).

Now, shortly after the Force and Destiny Beta came out, I managed to wrangle up the players from the Friday night game I was in and offered to run a one-shot using the adventure at the back of the Beta book.  Though I made a number of little tweaks here and there to the adventure, the players had plenty of fun and were eager to play these one-shot characters again (handing out double XP probably helped on that front).  One of the things I'd wanted to do was have the party's Nautolan Makashi Duelist (Kennis) get into a one-on-one lightsaber duel, with one pick-up session pretty much being cribbed from the FaD demos that FFG was running in the Dealer Hall at GenCon (a bunch of Force users are on this planet to find a small child, but are confronted by stormtroopers and one or more Imperial Dark Jedi).  I added enough other details to make the core idea fit into the loose continuity I'd established thus far (the group are all students of an Order 66 survivor and are working towards setting up a refuge/compound for those sensitive to the Force that is hidden from the Empire), but sadly Kennis' player couldn't make it.  Instead, Viado (Human Starfighter Ace who had just recently picked up the Shien Expert spec, a rank of Lightsaber, and nothing else) stepped up to duel the Imperial Dark Jedi that I concocted for that encounter.  The fight was pretty tense, with the party eventually ganging up and the IDJ and taking him down and Viado doing surprisingly well (though part of that might have been to lousy dice rolls on my part) though the fight did get a bit silly with the amount of disarms going back and forth.

Now this past Friday, I finally got to have a bona-fide lighsaber duel between Kennis and a Saber Rake NPC.  And the fight got pretty nasty, particularly for Kennis who got hit with multiple critical injuries and wound up loosing his non-weapon hand before other PCs stepped in to defeat the Rake.  Granted, it took a few rounds of back and forth, with the Saber Rake getting fairly beat-up as well even with his 3 ranks in Parry, 2 ranks of Adversary, and Melee Defense of 2.

To further add to this, Valin (who wound up getting a Mephite Crystal with a couple of modifications already made for his basic lightsaber) got into a couple of saber-fights, having delved into the Ataru Striker specialization.  However, the true test of Valin's skills was against an Inquisitor made using the rules in the back of the Adversary chapter of the FaD Beta, and to put it bluntly the only reason Valin didn't snuff it was that the option was there for him to make like Luke in ESB and take a "suicide plunge" out of a high-speed repulsor-train into a lake far below.  Now at this point, I'd bought far enough into Ataru Seeker for Valin to have two ranks of Parry and Reflect (but no Improved Parry), and I got my ass handed to me, simply because rolling against a dice pool of 2 Challenge dice, 1 Difficulty die, and 1 Setback die with a pool of 2 Proficiency dice and 1 Ability die put the odds pretty solidly not in my favor to both hit and have Advantage left over, and the fact that while I could impose the same difficulty dice pool on the Inquisitor, his 4 ranks of Lightaber and 4 Brawn meant he had a far better chance of hitting with Advantage left over.  In fact, I think the only reason that Valin survived at all was that the GM was having lousy rolls on the critical injury chart, even after spending 7 Advantage with a prior critical injury on what should have been a "kill shot" only to roll 08; this still was bad since it increased the difficulty of Valin's efforts to attack even more.  To say it was something of a rude awakening to just how far Valin had to go in becoming a 'saber-wielding badass would be an understatement.  I figured that in-character, it would lead to Valin being too focused on "fighting like a Jedi" and forgetting his background as a street rate, and that he'd adjust his tactics appropriately in the future to be more of a combat pragmatist.

Now while getting into a 'saber combat with Valin was fun, the fact remains that even before delving into Ataru Striker he had a lot of XP invested into Force Emergent and the Sense power, giving him a solid defense option in the defensive Control Upgrade with the Duration and Strength Upgrades as well as additional wounds and strain.  One of my friends has been gracious enough to let me bring a Force and Destiny PC that's much closer to being a starting PC into her Star Wars game, and while he's not had a chance to get into a fight or even break-out the lightsaber, I'm curious to see how it goes when said opportunities do present themselves.

So the point of all this?  In short, I think FFG got the settings just about right for Force and Destiny PCs to be able to engage in lightsaber duels, particularly once they've seriously invested in one of the Lightsaber Form specializations, but not have those duels being the "first hit wins" scenarios that they'd have been if they'd stuck to the EotE/AoR lightsaber stats.  And while I'm sure that there are some power-gaming twinks that are lamenting the lose of such "out-of-the-box uber-weapons," the game is overall better for replacing them with the basic lightsaber and its cousins from FaD.

October 12, 2014

Some gaming-related updates

So the past couple days have been fairly interesting gaming-wise for me.

Friday night, I wound up running a Force and Destiny game after finding out the person I thought was running thought somebody else was running.  I managed to pull a pretty decent adventure together with only 5 minutes of total prep time (and most of that was getting stats together for the initial encounter, a star ship battle).  There were a couple instances where I should have assigned Conflict, but I was a bit run-down mentally.  Still, the group had fun, so that counts as a Triumph in my book.

Also related to Friday after my FaD session wrapped, discussed with the players that were also part of the Mutants and Masterminds game that I was in.  Sadly, we concluded that one player, who was problematic in a couple different ways, had to go, but we are going to move ahead with playing, hopefully starting next month.  Not sure if we're doing the proposed "cosmic" mini-campaign or if we're going back to Emerald City Knights, but that can be hammered out over the coming weeks.

As for Saturday, the afternoon was spent playing in our EotE/AoR/FaD mixed group, and that session took a very unexpected direction.  Short version: our group of Rebel operatives got lured into an Imperial trap aboard a hovertrain, with the Imperials lead by an ISB Agent and most notably an Imperial Inquisitor.  For those that have read the Inquisitor creation rules in the back of the Force and Destiny Beta, you know how brutal an opponent an Inquisitor is.  Let's just say that my Minor Jedi character got a harsh lesson in just how far he has to go before being able to truthfully call himself a Jedi Knight after that particular duel, which did have underpinnings of the Luke vs. Vader fight in ESB.  Half the group's characters are dead, one was taken prisoner by the Imps and is probably not in for a happy fate, while my PC and our Chiss Commander were the only two to escape (albeit with significant injuries) by stealing a small 2-person scout ship (A-24 Sleuth) since the group's modified YT-1300 was under heavy Imperial guard.  From what we discussed after that session wrapped, it looks like we're doing a reboot of sorts, and going to switch over to an EotE-themed game with the party being a group of "independent spacers" rather than agents of the Rebellion.  They also didn't want to create new characters with the absurd (300+) XP required to put them roughly on par with the two escapees, so that means I'll be setting Valin aside for a little while.  Thinking I might actually try out a Colonist/Marshal for this relaunched campaign, as I've been wanting to give that specialization a spin given it's an interesting mix of social acumen and combat prowess.  Still, gonna feel odd not playing Valin, at least for a while.  But then again, the GM did say that once the group got within a reasonable XP range of him, I would be allowed to resume playing my Smuggler/Scoundrel/Force Emergent/Ataru Striker (who has earned 450 XP by this point).  I don't know how much XP the GM is going to hand out, and since we play bi-weekly (give or take), by the time I get to resume playing Valin, the actual core rulebook for Force and Destiny could be on the shelves.  Given that the EotE and AoR core rulebooks were released in July, I'm hoping it's not that long, but we'll see.

Saturday night was a Skype chat with a couple friends, discussing ideas for a Halloween-themed adventure to be run on either the 31st or the 1st.  I think Eric's got a really cool idea for a session, and my suggestion of using Fate Accelerated Edition seemed to really click for him.  So that will be something cool to look forward to.

For the Friday Skype group, I did get the various details (including settling on a name) for my replacement PC in the Age of Rebellion game.  I hadn't posted it here, but my PC in said AoR game, a Human Commander/Tactician, had died during an impromptu mission to free a bunch of resistance cell leaders and a teenage Force adept from an Imperial garrison.  He died from a vibro-knife to the heart wielded by an ISB Agent, keeping the guy from shooting at the rest of the team or prisoners before they all got aboard the Imperial transport we were stealing.  While I had planned/discussed with the GM the exit of my character well in advance, I find that I am going to miss Jacen, at least a bit.  But then, I'm not always comfortable with playing the party leader in an RPG, particularly if I've had a rough day at work beforehand; there were a few times where I honestly felt I was being overly bossy/pushy to the rest of the group (and to the GM a bit) to keep things on-track and moving towards our objectives even when not in combat.

So yeah, an interesting weekend in terms of gaming.

September 16, 2014

Force and Destiny: Dono Version 2.0

A while back, I took a crack at building my namesake Jedi PC from the days of WotC's d20 system, and while it was workable, I wasn't entirely happy with it.  So, being the unabashed tinker monkey that I am, I decided to try some other approaches to building a Force and Destiny version of Donovan Morningfire.  And here's the results:

Donovan Morningfire, Jedi Apprentice (Take Two)
Species: Human (bonus non-career skills are Knowledge: Xenology and Lightsaber)
Career: Guardian
Specializations: Peacekeeper, Ataru Seeker
Total XP: 270
Morality: 50
Emotional Strength: Bravery
Emotional Weakness: Recklessness
Motivation: Justice (Cause) 

Characteristics: Brawn 2, Agility 3, Intellect 2, Cunning 2, Willpower 3, Presence 3
Skills: Brawl 1, Cool 1, Coordination 1, Discipline 1, Knowledge: Xenology 1, Lightsaber 2, Perception 1, Piloting (Planetary) 1, Vigilance 1
Talents (Ataru Striker): Ataru Technique, Conditioned, Jump Up, Parry,  Quick Draw, Reflect
Talents (Peacekeeper): Commanding Presence, Confidence, Second Wind
Force Powers: Enhance (Control Upgrade: Coordination, Control Upgrade: Force Leap [Horizontal]), Move (Control Upgrade: Hurl Objects, Range Upgrade, Strength  Upgrade), Sense (Control Upgrade: Defense, Duration Upgrade)
Soak Value: 3
Wound Threshold: 12
Strain Threshold: 13
Defense (Melee/Ranged): 0/0
Gear: Basic lightsaber (Lightsaber; Damage 6; Crit 2; Range [Engaged]; Breach 1, Sunder), concealing robes (+1 soak), comlink (handheld), glow rod, 3 ration packs, 3 stimpacks, rebreather (as breath mask), utility belt, 200 credits

Okay, so this version's a bit more fragile given no ranks in Toughened or Grit to start out with, but he's certainly a lot more resistant to fear effects and has a good option for strain recovery with Second Wind, which he'll need to help fuel his Parry and Reflect talents.  He's still only got a Force Rating of 1, putting him strictly at Apprentice level, but it works.  Storywise, I just figure he had uncommonly good luck when rolling his Force die.

For his "group resource" I went with the Mentor option, given that his backstory (covered in the fan-fic "Unexpected Destiny") includes Jedi Master Quatre Zidann, who took an unsure-of-himself young boy and helped mold him into a brave (if still reckless) Jedi Knight.  As per the 2nd Beta Update for Force and Destiny, choosing Mentor provides a 5 XP discount on when initially purchasing a new Force Power, which gave Dono an extra 15 XP to play around with, most of which went into Force powers.  Should Mentor not be a group option for whatever reason, easiest fix is to drop the Force Leap upgrade from Enhance and his rank in Perception.

I did opt to keep that rank in Knowledge: Xenology, as for someone that wasn't always the sharpest of kids he was generally pretty-well versed in the traits and habits of the various alien species and cultures of the Rise of the Empire era, even picking up the Twi'lek head-tail language during his adult years.

Overall, I like this build a whole lot, and would love a chance to put Dono on the table in a Force and Destiny game.

September 7, 2014

Force & Destiny Pre-Gens: Human Sentinel/Shadow

Yet another pre-gen, and again one that's not a lightsaber user.  I took the core idea for this character from the notion of Mara Jade in her capacity as the Emperor's Hand, a role for which this character could very well fit, at least in terms of being a covert spy.

Human Sentinel/Shadow
Species: Human (bonus non-career skills are Cool and Melee)
Career: Sentinel
Specializations: Shadow
Total XP:115
Morality: 50
Emotional Strength: Caution
Emotional Weakness: Fear
Motivation: Survival (Ambition) 

Characteristics: Brawn 2, Agility 3, Intellect 2, Cunning 3, Willpower 2, Presence 2
Skills:Computers 1, Cool 1, Deception 1, Melee 1, Perception 1, Skulduggery 2, Stealth 1, Streetwise 1
Talents: Codebreaker, Indistinguishable, Sleight of Mind, Street Smarts
Force Powers: Misdirect (basic power), Sense (basic power)
Soak Value: 3
Defense (Melee/Ranged): 0/0
Wound Threshold: 12
Strain Threshold: 12
Gear: Blaster pistol (Ranged [Light]; Damage 6; Critical 3; Range [Medium]; Stun setting), vibroknife (Melee; Damage 3; Critical 2; Range [Engaged]; Pierce 2, Vicious 1), heavy clothing (+1 soak), comlink (handheld), breath mask, lockpicks, scanner goggles, stimpack (3), utility belt, 460 credits

Design Notes: Like I said, a prototypical Mara Jade type of character, though obviously she's much more focused on the "being sneaky" aspects than being an assassin.  She took a hit to her starting Characteristics, only having two scores at a 3 but she needed that XP for her starting Force powers and to get those two ranks in Skulduggery.

The lockpicks are something I scrounged up from older Star Wars RPG notes of mine, initially written for WotC's RCR version.  Here, they're meant to serve as a primitive counterpart to the electronic lock breaker; in effect a set of thieves' tools for breaking & entering as well as disabling primitive security methods.  Cost-wise I figure 100 credits is about right, with it being an Encumbrance 1 item.  It'd probably also be of some use in picking an electronic lock, but wouldn't qualify a bonus as per the "right tool for the job" sidebar in that instance.

September 6, 2014

Force and Destiny Beta Pre-Gens: Human Shii-Cho Knight

And here I am with yet another Force and Destiny Beta pre-gen character.

You remember when I said that they weren't all be lightsaber wielders?  Well, I've already given you a few characters that weren't, so here's one that is.  In contrast to Donovan, I opted to go with a "back to basics" lightsaber wielder, and you don't get much more basic in terms of lightsaber combat than Shii-Cho, also known as Form I or The Determination Form.

Human Warrior/Shii-Cho Knight
Species: Human (bonus non-career skills are Discipline and Vigilance)
Career: Warrior
Specializations: Shii-Cho Knight 
Total XP:115
Morality: 50
Emotional Strength: Bravery
Emotional Weakness: Anger
Motivation: The Jedi Code (Faith) 

Characteristics: Brawn 3, Agility 2, Intellect 2, Cunning 2, Willpower 3, Presence 2
Skills: Athletics 1, Cool 1, Coordination 1, Discipline 1, Lightsaber 2, Perception 1, Vigilance 1
Talents: Multiple Opponents, Parry, Second Wind, Toughened
Force Powers: Sense (basic power, Control Upgrade: Defense)
Soak Value: 4
Defense: (Melee/Ranged): 0/0
Wound Threshold: 15
Strain Threshold: 13
Gear: Training lightsaber (Lightsaber; Damage 6; Critical --; Ranged [Engaged]; Stun damage), concealing robes (+1 soak), breath mask, comlink (handheld), stimpack (x3), ration pack (3 days), utility belt; 800 credits

Design Notes: One beat-stick, straight up.  He's fairly tough, though a bit susceptible to blaster fire.  I opted to go with only raising his Brawn and Willpower since those feed into his Wound and Strain Thresholds in addition to the Discipline, Lightsaber, and Vigilance skills.  His only Force power is Sense, but he can use that to get a quick defensive boost, and could be a good reason for him to not immediately attack in the opening rounds of combat.  He's got a smattering of ranks in other useful skills, like Cool and Perception, but he is first and foremost a beatstick.

Now admittedly the training lightsaber isn't all that impressive, and I could see some folks thinking this character would be better off taking a much cheaper melee weapon like the truncheon to start with and then going for the +10 XP option rather than the +5XP/+1500 credits that I used.  But I really wanted this guy to start with a lightsaber, and given how lightsaber focusing crystals work in Force and Destiny, it's a simple matter for the Shii-Cho Knight to simply pop out the training emitter and slot in a proper focusing crystal once he happens to find one.

As far as crystal options go, the Krayt Dragon Pearl and Mephite Crystal are both solid options for sheer damage output.  The Lorrdian Gemstone offers some pretty solid defensive boosts, but the reduced damage can be counter-acted by the extended hilt attachment easily enough.

September 5, 2014

Force & Destiny Beta Pre-Gen: Twi'lek Sage

Another sample character from the Force and Destiny Beta.  Previously offered was a character that wasn't really "aware" of their being Force-sensitive, so this time I figured I'd offer up a character that very much is aware of the Force.

Twi'lek Consular/Sage
Species: Twi'lek
Career: Consular
Specializations: Sage
Total XP:110
Morality: 50
Emotional Strength: Compassion
Emotional Weakness: Cruelty
Motivation: Goodness of People (Faith) 

Characteristics: Brawn 1, Agility 2, Intellect 3, Cunning 2, Willpower 3, Presence 3
Skills: Charm 1, Cool 1, Deception 1, Discipline 1, Know: Education 1, Know: Lore 1, Leadership 1
Talents: Kill with Kindness, Researcher
Force Powers: Foresee (basic power), Heal/Harm (basic power)
Soak Value: 2
Defense (Melee/Ranged): 0/0
Wound Threshold: 11
Strain Threshold: 14
Gear: Concealing robes (+1 soak), comlink (handheld), portable healing kit, stimpack (3), 220 credits

Design Notes:For this character build, I wanted to do a "mystic" type of character, and while my first thought was to go with the Mystic career, it turned out that Consular was a better fit for what I had in mind.  The character is a mix of social skills and Force ability, with her two Force powers fitting into the notion of a "mystic" in that she can use the Force to heal or to cause harm while also being "aware" of the Force on a somewhat metaphysical level (thus the Foresee power).  For those of you with the book and checking my math, her rank of Researcher was bought at the 10XP instead of the 5 XP level, setting her up to take ranks in Smooth Talker and Confidence.

Given that Sage is one of two FaD specializations that offer the Force Rating talent twice (but no Dedication), this character is in a good position to become a very skilled Force user, so boosting up the Foresee power and taking the Influence are possible options.  She could also take Sense to boost up her defensive and offensive capabilities as well.  Of course, with the way that Heal/Harm is written, the temptation to deal significant damage to an adversary with a touch is going to always be present, especially as she purchases additional upgrades.

September 4, 2014

Force and Destiny BETA pre-gens: Human Guardian/Protector

Back when the Gamer Security Agency was a thing, I and some others folks did a bunch of sample character builds for the EotE Beta.  Since the GSA is pretty much defunct at this point, I thought I might pick up that tradition here on my own blog.

My last update was a Knight-level version of my namesake character, but I think for these next few character builds, I'll stick purely with the options available in the Force and Destiny book.  And if you're expecting an endless parade of 'saber-monkeys, then prepare to be disappointed.  I'm actually going to try and avoid using the Lightsaber Form specializations, if only to showcase that Force and Destiny presents far more options for characters than just Jedi wannabes.

So without further rambling on my part, let's get the ball rolling with a...

Human Guardian/Protector
Species: Human (bonus non-career skills are Cool and Piloting [Planetary])
Career: Guardian
Specializations: Protector
Total XP:115
Morality: 50
Emotional Strength: Disciplined
Emotional Weakness: Obstinateness
Motivation: Honor (Belief) 

Characteristics: Brawn 3, Agility 3, Intellect 2, Cunning 2, Willpower 3, Presence 2
Skills:Cool 1, Discipline 1, Medicine 1, Melee 1, Perception 1, Piloting (Planetary) 1, Ranged (Light) 1, Resilience 1, Vigilance 1
Talents: Bodyguard, Grit, Toughened
Soak Value:4Wound Threshold: 15
Strain Threshold: 14
Defense (Melee/Ranged): 0/0
Gear: Heavy blaster pistol (Ranged [Light]; Damage 7; Critical 3; Range [Medium]; Stun setting), holdout blaster (Ranged [Light]; Damage 5; Critical 4; Range [Short]; Stun setting), vibroknife (Melee; Damage 4; Critical 2; Range [Engaged]; Pierce 2, Vicious 1), heavy clothing (+1 soak), comlink (handheld), emergency medpac, extra reloads, stimpack (x4), utility belt; 90 credits

Design Notes: The core idea I had for this character was a "stealth Force user" in that he's not really aware that he's Force-sensitive, and is instead someone that's good at keeping other people safe and avoiding danger.  To that end, he's more likely to simply devote his Force dice to the Force Protection talent (once he acquires it) to make him a lot harder to take down.  He's an all-around decent combatant, good with a blaster or a knife.  The emergency medpac is actually from the other two core rulebooks; really not sure why the writers felt the need to replace it with the portable healing kit, which does much the same thing.

August 23, 2014

Donovan Morningfire, Force and Destiny style

I did say that I'd start posting some Force and Destiny pre-gens, didn't I?

Well, I figure that I might as well get the ball rolling with my Jedi namesake.  To be fair, Dono was not the first character I built using the Force and Destiny rules, especially since I used the rules for "Knight-level" characters to create him.  I wanted to try my hand at building a few characters that operate at the standard baseline to see how they compared to starting characters in Edge of the Empire and Age of Rebellion.

But once that was done, it was on to the task that I'd been wanting to attempt ever since FFG announced they had the Star Wars RPG license.  So without further rambling on my part, I present...

Donovan Morningfire, Jedi Apprentice
Species: Human (bonus non-career skills are Cool and Discipline)
Career: Seeker
Specializations: Ataru Striker, Force Emergent
Total XP: 270
Morality: 50
Emotional Strength: Bravery
Emotional Weakness: Recklessness
Motivation: Justice (Cause) 

Characteristics: Brawn 2, Agility 3, Intellect 2, Cunning 2, Willpower 3, Presence3
Skills: Athletics 1, Cool 1, Coordination 1, Discipline 1, Lightsaber 2, Knowledge (Xenology) 1, Survival 1, Vigilance 1
Talents (Ataru Striker): Ataru Technique, Conditioned, Dodge, Jump Up, Parry,  Quick Draw, Reflect
Talents (Force Emergent): Grit, Toughened, Uncanny Reactions, Uncanny Senses
Force Powers: Enhance (Control Upgrade: Coordination), Move (Strength  Upgrade), Sense (Control Upgrade: Defense)
Soak Value: 3
Wound Threshold: 14
Strain Threshold: 14
Defense (Melee/Ranged): 0/0
Gear: Basic lightsaber (Lightsaber; Damage 6; Crit 2;Range [Engaged]; Breach 1, Sunder), concealing robes (+1 soak), comlink (handheld), glow rod, 3 ration packs, 3 stimpacks, rebreather (as breath mask), utility belt, 200 credits

Going by his progression through my old Unexpected Destiny fan-fic as a either an RCR d20 Jedi Guardian or a Saga Edition Jedi, this puts him at about 3rd level in terms of his fighting and Force prowess.  Things aren't quite on par; for one he can't use telekinesis to attack and he can't quite do super leaps, but those two things are only 35 XP away.  And yes, I did technically cheat by using the Force Emergent from the Age of Rebellion core rulebook, but it does the job.

The rank in Knowledge (Xenology) was a bit odd at first (the Seeker career's list of career skills really don't mesh well with Dono's back-story; frankly he's better as either a Guardian or a Warrior, but him being an Ataru student is an iconic element of his characterization), but upon later thought it actually works, as when he appeared in d20 games, he was fairly savvy about different species, and even picked up on the Twi'lek head-tail languages.  The high Presence is more a nod to the fact he had a pretty high Charisma, even before Saga Edition made using the Force dependent on that ability score; were it someone else I'd probably have put the points into Brawn.  Dono did have a pretty good Constitution score in the d20 system, but a so-so Strength, so Brawn 2 works; he always was more about avoiding damage than absorbing it.

Overall, I'm pretty happy with how he worked out as a character.  It's a pretty solid starting point with plenty of room for him to grow, both as a duelist and as a Force user.  I do promise that the next few characters I post will be more along the lines of starting level characters.

August 21, 2014

My thoughts on FFG's Force and Destiny Beta

So it's been a week since I purchased my copy of the Force and Destiny Beta at GenCon.

Needless to say, I had a lot of fun at GenCon, even at those times where I was literally just walking the halls in search of neat and/or interesting costumes to take pictures of (and there were a lot).  I got to play FFG Star Wars under several different GMs, from d20 Radio co-host Phil "DarthGM' to FFG lead developer Sam Stewart, and quite a few other folks in-between.  With one exception, all of the sessions I played were fun, even the Force and Destiny demo which I did twice (mostly to get a chance to play the Soresu Defender character the second time around).

But onto the meat of this post, that being the twice-mentioned Force and Destiny Beta rulebook.  I was able to snag a copy on opening day thanks to being a VIG companion and thus getting early access to the Exhibit Hall, but I didn't get a chance to really sit down and read the book until much later in the evening.  I'm not going go into a blow-by-blow breakdown of every element of the book, and instead will just be discussing my thoughts on each portion as I get to it.

On first brush, I was pleasantly surprised by the introduction of the Morality mechanic.  Instead of the typical "dark side score" mechanic used by both the D6 and d20 versions of Star Wars, FFG opted to go for a scale not all that different from the Dark/Light scale used in the KOTOR video games; the lower your Morality, the closer you are to falling to the dark side, while the higher your Morality, the more in-tune you are with the Force.  It's rather interesting how your actions, particularly the darker ones, can generate what are called Conflict points, and at the end of each session, a PC would roll a d10 and compare it to their Conflict total (which gets reset) to see if their Morality moves up or down.  Unlike prior systems which simply punished Force user PCs that got out of line, the Morality system can very much reward those players who adhere to the ideals of the Jedi Order and thus generate little to no Conflict points during a session.  While there is the typical "fallen to the dark side" range of the Morality scale (less than 30), there's also a corresponding "paragon of the light side" range (higher than 70), with each extreme having an effect on the party's Destiny Pool at the start of the game as well as an impact on the character's Strain Threshold.

Where EotE offers characters the chance to increase their Obligation or AoR characters to decrease their Duty in order to start with more XP or more importantly additional credits, F&D instead has each player start at 50 Morality and gives a list of options for +10 XP, +2500 credits, or +5 XP/+1000 credits, all without having to alter your Morality score.  There is the option to drastically reduce or increase your starting Morality, putting you on the cusp of either falling to the dark side or being a light side paragon.

The species included only had one real surprise, in that they made the Mirialans a separate species instead of just a Near-Human (and thus falling under the rules for Humans), but the rest weren't a big surprise, such as Cerean, Togruta,  Nautolan, Kel Dor, and Zabraks, with Twi'leks and Humans getting a reprint from the prior core rulebooks.  The species shook out quite a bit differently than what Cyril and I had done for the Unofficial Species Menagerie, which was a welcome surprise.

On the careers, I will admit to being surprised to not see an actual Jedi career, although interestingly six of the seven Forms of lightsaber combat are represented (the only one missing is Juyo/Vaapad, which makes sense as it was a very rare Form even during the height of the Jedi Order, with Vaapad being Mace Windu's personal creation and only shared with a very small handful of individuals).  The character creation chapter makes it pretty clear that the PCs are not Jedi, but instead are Force users that in some cases have managed to scrap together a few bits and pieces of Jedi training (such as a Lightsaber Form).

About the Lightsaber Form specs, I was at first disappointed to see that only the Niman Disciple has the Force Rating talent, but upon further consideration I came to agree with the decision.  The Form specs are each dedicated to a means of enhancing a character's prowess with a lightsaber, making a dangerous weapon even more so in their hands, so it stands to reason that for most of them, they'd be focused more on physical combat than on Force usage.

I'll admit to not being crazy about the Ataru Striker being attached to the Seeker career, but that might be more due to my namesake Jedi PC from the d20 system being an Ataru master and his core concept not being at all in line with the Seeker and what it offers for career skills; Dono is really more of a Warrior in terms of career than a Seeker, seeing as how he started life as a Jedi Guardian in the OCR.

One element I do like about the Form specs is that all of them bar Shii-Cho Knight has a talent that lets you use a Characteristic other than Brawn when using the Lightsaber skill, going beyond the expected range of either Brawn or Agility for attacks.

I will admit to being surprised at how the designers opted to handle blaster deflection, as well as cutting down on the "first hit wins" problem that lightsabers had in EotE and AoR.  The book introduces the Parry and Reflect talents, each of which allows the character that's equipped with the appropriate weapon to suffer strain to reduce the damage of a melee (Parry) or ranged (Reflect) attack by a set amount.  I must admit it's astonishingly simple, and I can vouch that it works quite well from first-hand experience.  There's also Improved versions of each, which allow the character to make a counter-attack when they use the corresponding base talent to mitigate the damage taken.  I've got a few qualms with how the talents are laid out, particularly in that some of the Form specializations don't have blaster deflection, such as Ataru and Soresu, both of which have their iconic characters (Qui-Gon/Yoda for Ataru and Obi-Wan for Soresu) making pretty frequent use of reflected blaster fire to attack their enemies.

Speaking of lightsabers, a major change is that the stats of your basic lightsaber have been reduced dramatically, going from Damage 10 and Crit Rating 1 to Damage 6 and Crit Rating 2, along with the 2 ranks in Vicious being removed; this I truly do think makes a lightsaber are far more balanced weapon, and I wish it had been implemented during the EotE Beta.  I know that I'll be using the basic lightsaber stats from here on out.  But even with the reduced values, a lightsaber is not available as starting gear, or at least a lightsaber with a working crystal (you can pick up a basic lightsaber hilt for 300 credits, but it's not viable as a weapon until you can obtain an appropriate focusing crystal).

But what's also interesting is that FFG opted to go with a "crystals as weapon attachments" mechanic, though thankfully they've made it so that you only get one crystal as opposed to the KOTOR video games where you could slap multiple crystals and upgrades into a lightsaber to twink the hell out of it.  Each crystal comes with a default rating for damage, crit rating, and weapon qualities, and the character can then further modify the crystal to improve it.  Fun fact: if a PC manages to fully modify an ilum crystal (the default crystal for all lightsabers), their lightsaber will have the same stats as the lightsaber found in the EotE and AoR core rulebooks.

Another interesting element is the option of what they're calling Knight-level play, which provides the character with 150 additional XP (which is specified as not being able to be spent to increase Characteristics) and either a basic lightsaber or 10,000 credits' worth of gear.  For those groups that want to skip the "training wheels" stage of character play, this is right up their ally.  The one drawback though is that character advancement is going to slow down a bit, as the PCs are going to be able to delve pretty far into their specialization's talent trees.  It also doesn't specify if the "no more than 2 skill ranks" restriction still holds, something that may need to be addressed, as it could be abused to max out the ranks in a key skill for the character.

The new talents are pretty interesting, such as the Parry and Reflect that I mentioned previously.  Each of the new specializations has something interesting to offer, such as the Artisan's Imbue Item talent that lets him commit a Force die to instantly jury-rig a piece of nearby gear, or the Pathfinder and their ability to obtain an animal companion.

The big draw in the equipment chapter is of course the lightsabers, which as I've noted earlier have been reduced in power quite dramatically, to the point where a GM doesn't have to feel bad if they put their party up against a lightsaber-wielding foe.  Aside from the basic model, there's also the double-bladed lightsaber as well as the short lightsaber aka shoto, with other melee weapon offerings being cortosis weapons and the electrostaff as used by General Grevious's MagnaGuards in RotS.  There's not as many ranged weapons in this book, with many of the Ranged (Heavy) entries from EotE and AoR having been removed.  There's a couple of new armor options, such as the Concealing Robes (think standard Jedi robes from the prequels) that make it harder for others to identify or even notice you, a handy thing for a Force user trying to stay off the Empire's radar, and Armored Robes (think the get-up that Jedi Knights wear in the Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO).  There's nothing super-special for most of the Gear chapter, except for rules on holocrons and a few sample Force talismans (both good and bad).  There are a couple of new attachments even for the non-lightsaber crowd, such as the shadowsheath (checks to detect the weapon are much harder) and the stun pulse (gives the weapon the Stun active quality).

There are a handful of lightsaber focusing crystals to pick from, ranging from the basic Ilum crystal to the potent Krayt Dragon Pearl, as well as a number of lesser modifications such as dual-phase emitter and curved hilts, as well as the Superior Hilt Customization to cover the character fully personalizing their lightsaber, enough to grant the Superior quality to the weapon, which is a pretty big deal since it's extra damage and a free Advantage on checks, though it's just as expensive.

The combat and starship chapters are largely unchanged from the rules presented in the prior core rulebooks, although the Vehicle Profiles chapter does offer a few new options, such as a passenger landspeeder (one pilot and 4 passengers) and the Gallis-Tech 48 Roller wheel bike, similar to what Grevious used in RotS (though without the funky leg things or on-board weapons).  In terms of starships, there's the Delta-series, such as the Delta-7 Aethersprite (which is astoundingly close to what I posted on this blog a while back in terms of stats).  For transports we have the G9 Rigger and the HWK-290 (for which FFG was a bit more generous overall than I was in the version I created), as well as a couple other options such as the Simiyar light freighter (a Mon Cal design) and the ZH-25 Questor, the later of which would be perfectly viable for an EotE group looking for something other than a YT-1300 to start out with.

The Force chapter not only collects the five prior powers (Enhance, Foresee, Influence, Move, and Sense) from the prior books, but also introduces several new ones.  On this point, I don't think I was even remotely close.  For instance, FFG rolled Force-based healing and damage into a single power, and made resisting a power something that anyone can do, though rebuking a power has been rolled in with a Force lightning type of effect (though you need a very high Force Rating to select said power).  What's interesting is that several of the new powers have different effects depending on whether you used Light Side pips from the Force die to generate your Force points or if you converted those Dark Side pips.  For instance, the Bind power simply lets you hold a person in place, but if you used any Dark Side pips to generate the necessary Force points then the target also takes damage, which effectively makes this Vader's Force choke.  Many of the new powers require a Force Rating of 2 or better, putting them in the hands of experienced PCs only.  I must say this is a very interesting idea, and it certainly curtails the number of new powers that a PC would need to purchase while also offering them some pretty brutal options to deal with foes if they simply make use of the dark side aspects of those powers.

Back to Morality for a moment, the GM chapter offers a handy little chart that lists what how many Conflict points certain courses of action are, ranging from earning 1 point from resorting to violence as the first solution to a problem (even if that problem is stopping a bunch of bandits from shooting and burning a camp of innocent tribesman) up 10 points for torture or the murder of a helpless person.  Interestingly, many of what would be seen as "standard operating procedure" for adventuring groups will net you some Conflict points, making you more likely to slip closer to the dark side of the Morality scale, which I think does an excellent job of reflecting how the light side/dark side paradigm operates in the films; Obi-Wan probably only nets a point or two of Conflict each session at most, while Anakin in his rush to resolve problems through the most expedient means possible likely generates several points each session (unless Obi-Wan's around to reign him in).  Also, the Fear check mechanics have been updated to account for Morality, as rolling a Despair on a Fear check generates a point of Conflict, a nice nod to the line of Fear leading to Anger.

The Adversary chapter has a number of new NPCs as well as returning favorites such as stormtroopers and street toughs.  There's a number of generally low-grade Force user NPCs, most of whom only have a minor ability along with being at Force Rating 1, though a couple are Nemesis-tier foes such as the Murderous Fugitive (FR 3 and a Force Lightning effect).  Most of the droids are new, such as the IG-100 MagnaGuard (Nemesis tier and a freaking brute in melee combat).  New monsters are included, such as an Acklay (the thing Obi-Wan fought in the gladiatorial pit in AotC) which is pretty nasty (not quite Captured Rancor nasty, but not that far off either) and even the Vornskr and Ysalamir (which simply negates all Force effects within Short Range of it).

But the capstone to this chapter is the Inquisitor creation guidelines.  And after putting a few of these big bads together, let me say that they can be very nasty, even if they don't have any active Force powers or use a lightsaber.  This section also has a sidebar discussing the option to allow a major NPC that's going solo against a group of 4 or more PCs to get an extra turn each round, making them more of a threat against a group (who might otherwise simply bury a lone villain with the sheer number of attacks per round they'd get).

The book wraps up with an adventure, called Lost Knowledge.  I've not read this in-depth, but for the most part it's not really anything special, although the final encounter does have an interesting wrinkle to it and part of the rewards offered for completing the adventure is a new type of lightsabrer focusing crystal; it's not as good or modifiable as an Ilum crystal, but it beats not having a lightsaber at all.  From what I could tell, it's geared towards starting level characters, as Knight-level PCs are going to likely crush the opposition as they're written.  Still, it looks pretty solid, and I'll probably wind up running it at some point.

A bit disjointed, but those are my thoughts on the Force and Destiny Beta.  I've been looking forward to this book every since the product line was announced, and I must say it didn't disappoint.  Even the few things that I didn't totally agree with didn't detract from my enjoyment of the material, and most of those are either so minor as they can be overlooked or I've started up threads in the F&D Beta portion of the FFG forums to discuss proposed changes to the material.  Note I said changes, not fixes.  The material as it's written works very well, and some of the changes I've in mind for the material could very well fall into the realm of "personal preference."  Though going by the number of likes I've gotten on some of those threads, the proposed changes seem to be pretty darn popular.  And since a number of FFG folks recognized my forum handle, at least there's a good chance that the designers will see these proposed changes and consider them for implementation.  Hey, my suggestion of changing Knowledge (Galactic Civil War) to Knowledge (Warfare) made it into the AoR core rulebook, so you never know ;)

Now that being said, there is the matter of Ways of the Force.  While it probably won't go away, there won't be a "version 1.41," but rather a "version 2.0" to account for how Force and Destiny handles a number of things.  Top of the list to go bye-bye are going to be the Jedi Initiate and Deflect Blasters, as well as the Healing, Injure, and Rebuke powers.  I will probably also tweak the Force Techniques section to make them into things that anyone with sufficient Force Rating and appropriate powers can do but without needing to pay an XP cost as well as adding a couple effects.  Not sure on where the Force Mystic or Dark Side Acolyte are going to wind up, but I got a feeling that other than loosing at least one rank of Uncanny Reactions and Uncanny Senses each, they'll still be around.  As for those lightsaber-related talents I created, that I'm not sure on.  I'd promised myself that I wouldn't fall prey to the lure of creating a Jedi career, but now that the curtain's been pulled back on dedicated Force users with Force and Destiny, that means that I have a lot more tools to make use of for creating a Jedi career system.  How it'll shake out, I frankly have no idea.

I'll likely be posting some of the various characters I've made using the F&D Beta rules over the next few days, as well as a recap on my GenCon experience (which again was well worth the money spent).  So until then, remember...

The Force will be with you, always.

August 11, 2014

Ways of the Force: A Deep Breath Before the Plunge

It's the 11th, one day before I get another year older, (and maybe a bit wiser than I was a year before (though I kinda doubt it).  It's also only a few more days until GenCon kicks off, and the anticipation levels are starting to climb rapidly.

One of the big things that I hoping for this year's GenCon is that we will indeed be getting the Force and Destiny Beta for FFG's excellent Star Wars RPG.  There's been a lot of anticipation for this book every since it was announced that they were doing three separate core rulebooks for their system, with a focus on the galactic fringe (EotE), the Galactic Civil War (AoR), and finally the force (FaD).  There's also been a lot of discussion (some polite, some heated, and some absolutely worthless) about how things are going to shake out.  While there are those that are terrified of the idea of Jedi finally being available as PCs, I'm willing to give the FFG design team the benefit of the doubt.  They've done a bang-up job so far on this system, and the ground rules for Force usage have thus far proven to be effective as well as not subject to being too easily twisted to make an uber-powerful Force user.

Which brings this particularly post back around to my Ways of the Force fan supplement.  When I first released this document back in May 2013, I knew from start that this was going to eventually become obsolete in a year or so.  That it was, at best, a stop-gap measure to provide players and GMs alike some additional options regarding Force users, including an option for Jedi for those folks that wanted to include one of the most iconic character types of the setting.  I've gotten a fair amount of feedback, most of it positive, some of it caustically negative, and some of it pointing things I'd overlooked.

Over the past couple months, I'd taken a look back over my development notes from back in 2012 up to version 1.3, and it was interesting to see how the talent trees for my three Force-sensitive specializations had grown, changed, and evolved.  Of how many different iterations and implementations of Deflect Blasters that I had conceived of, many of which were not implemented at all due to either being totally unworkable or far too random for something that's an iconic ability of the Jedi.

But, as a self-professed "tinker monkey" I couldn't leave things alone, particularly at those points when I was struck with the "Hey, that's an idea!" bursts of insight, such as a means to quite possibly have the Deflect Blasters talent be both simple to implement and roughly balanced.  So while I'd released version 1.3 with the idea of it being "that's it, last update, I'm done," that has turned out to not be the case.

So without further rambling on my part, I pull the curtain back on Version 1.4 of Ways of the Force, the unofficial fan supplement for Force users for FFG's Star Wars Roleplaying Game:

Ways of the Force, Version 1.4

As I'm sure some folks will note, the Jedi Initiate got a pretty substantial overhaul, with a large part of that being due to Deflect Blasters once again being consolidated into a single talent, itself having gotten a substantial revision.  As the Age of Rebellion book is now on shelves, I've updated page references for the talents taken from that book.  Message and Rebuke have gotten a substantial reworking, as did Injure to a lesser extent.

Earlier versions of Ways of the Force had what I'd taken to calling "minor Force powers" in that these were one-use effects that (at the time) I didn't think warranted being made into full-blown Force power trees.  Well, that changed for most of my initial lot of "minor Force powers," either due to FFG beating me to the punch on some of these in Age of Rebellion or because I finally could justify them as being full-blown Force powers.

Well, there's still a number of minor Force abilities that don't have a corresponding effect in the game, and having taken a look through some of my RCR books not too long ago, I decided to revive the concept of "Force techniques."  In short, these are specialized Control Upgrades that add another basic usage of an existing Force power, such as being able to hold one's breath for several minutes (Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan in Episode I) or enter a hibernation trance.  The mechanics behind these are fairly simple, and with one noted exception play with any of the Upgrades that a given power might have.  To be fair, I didn't get the chance to really play test these, but the effects are generally so minor or so specific that I don't see them as causing any serious problems in anyone's game.

I'm not going to say one way or the other if there will be any further updates to Ways of the Force, as a lot of that is going to depend on how things shake out with Force and Destiny.  Always in motion is the future.  But until then, I hope those of you that have enjoyed using some or all of the material in Ways of the Force in the past continue to enjoy the material, and thanks for the support and feedback.  May the Force (and Destiny Beta) be with us...

Edit: Okay, so I made an assumption with part of the FFG rules regarding talents that make use of the Force die.  While there will be a v1.41 to clear those up, in the meantime any instance where a talent says "character rolls " the intent is that the character rolls Force dice equal to their Force Rating, not just a single Force die.

August 4, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy = fun summer movie

Coming up on a month since my last post.  Hadn't quite intended to go quite so long, but things happen.  Way of the world and whatnot.

Like the title indicates, I saw Guardians of the Galaxy this weekend.  Admittedly, even from the trailers I wasn't expecting a whole lot from this movie, as like a lot of audience members I know practically zilch about this incarnation of the group.  The only character I really knew anything about was Gamora, and that really only from the Infinity Gem limited series, which was so long ago that's probably safe to say I knew squat about her other than "hot alien green chick."

Since I don't have cable and really don't watch a lot of TV, I've not seen most of the adverts for the movie.  Although the initial trailer, with "Hooked on a Feeling" as the background music did a lot to convince me to go see this movie.

And I'm really glad I did.  It's not high drama, it's not going to provoke any major philosophical discussions, but it's a damn fun movie.

I think the scene that really set the tone for the film for me was very early on, when our 'hero' Peter "Star Lord" Quill shows up on a planet after the title drop, does a bit of scouting around with some high-tech gizmo, and stuffs it away to pull out a Sony Walkman, put on his headphones, and start jamming and dancing to "Come and Get Your Love."  If the trailers hadn't already convinced you this was going to be a light-hearted space opera, then this scene would cinch the deal.

I won't go into any major spoilers, but I found each of the main characters to be highly enjoyable to watch.  For me, I'd have to say the weakest of the team was Gamora, but then I could well be biased as I'm not particularly enamored of Zoe Saldana (I honestly thought Uhura in the New!Trek films was a snide bitch as opposed to the slightly sassy yet warm version that Nichelle Nichols portrayed in both TV series and films).  At least the writers didn't simply exploit her for fan-service, and stayed true to the idea that Gamora is a very dangerous and capable combatant.  It was a given that Rocket was going to pretty much steal every seen he was in, but I think he had to work for it given how well Drax and Groot came across.  Yeah, Peter aka "Star Lord" (who?) was the 'hero' of the piece, but I felt he had enough humanizing flaws and quirks that he was just as interesting a character as Rocket or Drax.  Groot was pretty simple, but he's a simple guy and he managed to convey a surprising amount with just tone, expressions, and body language.

Both the stingers where worth staying for, and in hindsight the release date of August 1st made the second stinger even funnier given what movie was released almost three decades ago on that same date.  I don't think anyone actually expected that character to ever show up in the MCU, and I thought it was a nice nod to the older Marvel fans that might actually remember said character.

In other news, it's just over a week to GenCon, and man am I starting to get the pre-convention jitters.  Yeah, there's some neat swag to snag (Force and Destiny Beta, as well recent confirmation that Far Horizons will be available at the FFG kiosk and the D&D 5e Player's Handbook), but one of the main things I'm looking forward to is getting to see many of the d20 Radio crew that I've gotten to know over the years, as well as putting names to some new faces, such as Phil aka DarthGM, who has (for the meantime at least) replaced Dave as the co-host of the Order 66 podcast.  As well as hoping for a chance to play in a pick-up game run by GM Chris, something I've managed to do every GenCon so far and that I've not regretted.

So yeah, Guardians of the Galaxy.  If it's playing in your part of the world, go see it.  It's a fun movie, and proves yet again that when it comes to comic book movies, make mine Marvel!

July 19, 2014

Exploring the Galactic Fringe- the Delta-7B Jedi Starfighter

Changing gears a bit to head back to Star Wars after a post mostly about D&D 5th edition, I've been going through some various files in my "Homebrew Material" folder on my computer, and found a couple of vehicles that I'd done write-ups for under the FFG Star Wars RPG.  While they were initially for the Gaming Security Agency, I thought I'd simply post them here.

Given the hopes that the Force and Destiny Beta will be for available for the procuring at GenCon this year, I thought I'd go with a bit of a Jedi theme for this post.


Delta-7B Aethersprite Interceptor
Hull Type/Class: Starfighter/Delta-7B Aethersprite
Manufacturer: Kuat Systems Engineering
Hyperdrive: None

Navicomputer: None - Astromech Droid Socket
Ship’s Complement: One pilot, one astromech
Passenger Capacity: None
Encumbrance Capacity: 6
Consumables: Two days

Cost/Rarity: 180,000 credits/7
Silhouette: 3 
Sensor Range: Short
Handling: +2
Defense: 1/0 
Armor: 2
Hull Integrity: 8
Strain Threshold: 8
Customization Hard Points:1

Forward Medium Laser Cannons (Fire Arc Forward; Damage 6; Critical Hit 3; Range [Close]; Linked 3) 

Something of a stepping-stone between the Delta-7A that Obi-Wan piloted in Attack of the Clones and the Eta-2 Actis Interceptor used in Revenge of the Sith, the Delta-7B is a pretty capable ship, even during the Rebellion Era when it's a couple decades out of date.  It's speed is on par with that a a TIE/IN Fighter while being a bit more durable and packing a lot of extra firepower.  The onboard astromech doesn't hurt either (although that depends on how the GM handles the presence of NPC astromechs in their game), though at least unlike its predecessor this ship can accommodate a full-sized astromech that's not permanently affixed to the ship.  Lacking a built-in hyperdrive though leaves the Delta-7B reliant either on a larger ship to carry it or an external hyperdrive ring, like the Syluire-31 Hyperspace Docking Ring, which alters the stat block above as follows when attached:

Hyperdrive: Primary: Class 1, Backup: None
Consumables: One week
Speed: 4
Handling: +0
Special: Requires a Maneuver to dock or disengage with.

Now obviously this ship being heavily identified with the Jedi Order on top of its age means that it's going to be hard to come by and that piloting one will probably raise the eyebrows of an Imperial-leaning individuals.  And while it's not as sturdy as a Y-Wing or as flashy as an X-Wing, neither is the Delta-7B immediately identified as "a Rebel snubfighter."