January 25, 2015

So what did happen to the GSA?

Okay, I've been asked this by a number of folks, and while I'd prefer to keep my thoughts to myself, I do think

What happened to the GSA?

Some time back, there was an idea, the brainchild of Dave "GM Dave" Villegas and Brian "Fiddleback" Casey.  Called the Gamer Security Agency, or GSA for short, it was meant to be a kind of repository for various members of the Gamer Nation to write and post articles discussing various aspects of gaming, and likely also a means to advertise Gamer Nation Studios and their line of games.  Not too surprisingly, given that most of the d20 Radio community were big into Star Wars (heck, it was a Star Wars RPG podcast that lead to the formation of the d20 Radio community), when FFG's Edge of the Empire Beta got into our hands, the GSA had almost become an EotE fan site instead of the general gaming web site that had been intended.  And then, Brian departed to go do his own thing, and the GSA pretty much went into hibernation.  A lot of contributors, such as myself, waited to see what would happen... only for nothing to happen.

Now to be clear, I have ZERO idea as to what actually caused Brian to take his ball and go play in a different yard; that's something you'll have to ask him.  But if I had to speculate then I'd say that Brian and Dave had differing ideas about where the GSA should go, and thus parted ways, with the GSA lying dormant and no updates being made.

Then something happened a couple weeks ago, that took a number of folks by surprise.  The GSA website vanished.  Honestly, I'm not surprised at this, as I'm sure that paying money for a website that wasn't being updated and wasn't doing much to draw traffic to the d20 Radio website was a fiscal drain that Dave and Chris could do without.  Frankly, I'm more surprised the site stayed up as long as it did.

So what does that mean for the content that was on the GSA?  Given most of the contributors have either gone their own ways or jumped ship over to Brian's GSA knock-off site, odds are good most of those articles are lost to the ether and will require the Internet Wayback Machine to dig up.

Luckily, I saved soft-copies of all the GSA articles I posted.  So as the weeks and months go by, I'll start posting some of those items here, such as the various starships I did for the "Exploring the Galactic Fringe" section of the Equipment Labs, the much enjoyed Unofficial Species Menagerie (more on that in a moment), and even some of the Heroes on Demand, though I will probably have a number of new ideas to offer given how many more books are out.  Though with HoD, I may wind up revising several characters to account for the new core rulebooks but that will depend greatly on time available.

As for the Unofficial Species Menagerie, there had been plans to do a Version 4, but frankly those plans fell completely through.  From the start, I had meant for it to be a joint project between myself and Ben "Cyril' Erickson, but it's become pretty clear that Ben's interests have moved away from Star Wars RPGs as well as his own personal life having several demands on his time.

True, I probably could forge ahead without him, but doing just feels wrong to me.  Like I said, it was meant as a joint project, and if Ben's not contributing, then I feel the best thing to do at this point would be to set any further updates of the USM aside.  Plus, there's the fact that a lot of the species we'd created are getting covered by FFG in their sourcebooks, so I'd be placing more and more species into the archive chapter than I would be adding new species.

That being said, I will post a link to the USM for folks to reference now that the GSA has passed on.  I'm not sure yet if I'm going to push ahead with the mostly updated version that I have, or just simply post the link to version 3.5 and leave it at that.

January 1, 2015

Happy Frakkin' New Year!

(Yes, that is a Battlestar Galactica reference.  Deal with it).

Yeah, so it's been a while since I last posted here.  Short version is that the past month has been quite busy for me for a number of reasons, making it rather easy to forgot about this blog of mine.

I did get around to seeing The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies.  And quite frankly, the more I reflect on the movie, the more let down I am in its execution.  That's not to say it was horrible or that I regret spending the time watching it in the theater.  It's just that this movie proves that Peter Jackson really should have kept his adaptation of The Hobbit to only two films as this third one just really suffered from stretching the material so thin.  I did very much like how the film ended, and the opening sequence with Smaug unleashing fire and death upon Laketown was very well done, as was the White Council going up against the Necromancer/Sauron in Dol Guldor; it was quite cool to see Elrond and Saruman holding their own quite well against the Nazgul and shiver-inducing to see Galadriel invoke her "dark queen" aspect to essentially banish Sauron back to Mordor followed by Saruman's saying to leave taking care of Sauron to him, especially as audiences generally already know which side Saruman pretty much ends up on in the Lord of the Rings films.

Things are still rather busy, and I'm still trying to catch up on things that got pushed aside due to the Xmas holiday weekend.  In fact, working on this blog post comes as something of a break from what I've most recently been working on.  Can't provide any specific details, but I must say the project in question is fun and I can't wait to see the final results when it's all said and done.

As folks that follow along with the Star Wars RPG by Fantasy Flight Games know, the first career sourcebook for their Age of Rebellion game line is out on shelves now, that being Stay on Target for the Ace career.  This was a fun product for myself and the other members of Squadron 66 to playtest, though it did expose just how unused to running starship combats I was; there were a number of times where the player said they wanted to do something, and I had to scramble through my copy of the rulebook to see what the specific rules on that action were.  If it were a regular session, I'd have probably just handwaved it, but since this was playtesting I felt it was more appropriate to stick to the rules as written, particularly for talents like the Corellian Send-Off that directly reference existing mechanics (in this case, collisions) in the core rules.

Of the new material, I'd have to say the Hotshot is my favorite of the three careers, and I'd love a chance to play one in a starfighter campaign some point down the road.  I was also a big fan of the Z-95 Heavy of the new starfighters, although the E-Wing is a pretty boss ship in its own right.  I also had to hold myself in check upon reading complaints in the Age of Rebellion section of FFG's own forums about folks complaining that having an astromech didn't provide any actual rules benefit when I was in the midst of playtesting those actual rules.  Hopefully those folks that lamented the lack of said rules are pleased with what FFG has offered up to address said concern.

A fair chunk of my time has been taken up with various RPG campaigns.  The Punching for Justice! podcast, dedicated to Mutants & Masterminds 3rd edition, has quite recently posted their two-part holiday-themed live play session, of which I was glad to participate in.  They've actually got a bunch of live play sessions recorded for the Emerald City Knights campaign that Eric "Ogehn" Brenders was running (currently on hiatus) in the can, but that Kyle simply didn't have the opportunity to edit (being a full-time student tends to do that).  Hopefully things will settle down a bit for Kyle and he'll have the time to get back into editing and posting those live play episodes, as well as recording regular episodes of Punching for Justice!

I've also been running sessions for the Force and Destiny Beta, testing out how characters progress under those rules as well as various bits of the rules themselves, up to and including just how dangerous a lightsaber duel can be even for a PC that's all about lightsaber duels.  Those have been a lot of fun, though I think Edo (Gand Seeker/Hunter) is probably the most memorable PC of the group; but Viado Airhart comes close, particularly since the player is using an image of Nicolas Cage to represent what Viado looks like.

Also been playing in my good friend Linda's Age of Rebellion campaign, which also has been a lot of fun.  I had started the campaign playing a Human Commander/Tactictian named Jacen Roke, but after Jacen made the ultimate sacrifice for his comrades and the Alliance, I've brought in a new PC by the name of Kyren Stryder, young Human male that's been rather derisively labeled a "useless pretty boy" by one of the other PCs.  Not much to say on Kyren other than he's simply out to help those who need it, and is a recent recruit to the Rebel Alliance.  He's been pretty vague about his particular skill set, beyond that he's good with his fists, can handle himself in a fight, and has demonstrated significant athletic prowess.  Kyren's also a pretty easy-going individual; part of my concept for his personality was in part inspired by Christopher Reeve's portrayal of Superman, in that Kyren generally sees himself as being "a friend to those in need."  Given that one of Kyren's motivations is "Helping the Helpless" (lifted from the Force and Destiny Beta because it was too perfect to pass up), I think that fits.  Really hoping that with Linda now back on her usual daytime hours instead of the evening holiday hours she was working, we'll pick this campaign back up.

Last night was spent on the inaugural session of what I hope is a long-running Legend of the Five Rings campaign.  Once again, I am taking up the banner of the Minor Clans by playing a Hare Bushi (Usagi Katsuro).  A large part of the hook for this character is that he's driven to prove that the Minor Clans can produce an extraordinary swordsman on par with those of the Great Clans, particularly the Crane and Dragon Clans; while the Hare Clan might be respected for their courage and luck in facing their foes, the Usagi Bushi school does not come to mind when one thinks of "schools that produce great swordsmen" and Katsuro is out to prove that the Great Clans do not have a monopoly on doing so.  Said drive will probably get him into trouble sooner rather than later, but as things stand he's already very capable, be it in a proper iaijutsu duel or employing the precepts of battojutsu in a skirmish as he darts around the field of battle.

The inaugural session was meant to be more of a "everyone meets" type of deal as well as allowing us to get a feel for our characters and make any minor adjustments we feel are needed.  For me, Katsuro performed as expected in that he was able to deliver a devastating opening assault but fast enough to avoid getting squashed outright by his opponents.  We did have one player make a ronin brawler in the theme of Sanosuke Sagara, but the player sadly learned that if you're playing a true ronin with no starting technique or path in L5R, you're pretty much boned.  The Mantis Bushi and Scropion Shugenja both seemed to do well, the the shugenja is interesting as she is definitely not a combat mage; instead she seems to have been built to be the party face with her magic backing this up to make her an even more effective social character.

As for the campaign itself, the GM is placing us into the Naishou Province setting that AEG published for GenCon 2013.  We as players have only been given a few scant details about the province, but from what we've thus far been told, it sounds to be pretty interesting.  Each of us has their own reason to be traveling there under orders of our respective lords; not sure about the ronin brawler as he seemed not to have much direction (and probably just as well the player will be making an entirely different character).  Given the focus of the Hare Clan in rooting out some fairly dark conspiracies, that my character is being sent there probably doesn't bode well in the long run, but I'll have to simply wait and see.  It will also be interesting to see how this rather disparate group of young samurai continue to interact with one another; thus far I'm probably the most honorable character in the group; the Mantis Bushi's attitude is not unlike that of Tony Stark prior to the events of the first Iron Man flick, and the Scorpion Shugenja has made it pretty clear that she holds to her clan's rather unusual views regarding Bushido and "honorable" behavior.

Well, that's pretty much what I've been up to.  Got to head off and make final preparations for a playtesting session for a new project for tonight.