August 26, 2015

Archetype Alterations for Feng Shui 2

This post is inspired by fellow d20 Radio alumni and Gamer Nation member Taigia Reilly, due to a FB Messenger comment he sent me.  Sorry for not directly replying, but felt the reply might work better as a blog post.

In my last blog post, I'd made a brief mention of looking at tweaking some of the ready-to-play archetypes found in the core rulebook of Feng Shui 2.  Now, the intent of the archetypes in FS2 is that they are literally "ready to play" as in the only thing you need to do is provide a name and a dramatic hook.  For this new version of Feng Shui, the designers made the very deliberate choice to not include a traditional character creation system, and in fact there really aren't any character creation rules at all.

Now as I've alluded to in the past, I am an incessant tinker-monkey when it comes to RPGs.  It's something I've enjoyed doing, even if the fruits of my efforts have been less-than-stellar.  Then again, enough folks have liked the various rules tweaks I've posted over the years, ranging from an array of new crunch for Star Wars RCR (way back on the Holonet Forums) and Saga Edition (Deflect Blasters seemed to be quite popular back in the day, and it's been the rare GM that I've played under that disallowed the talent).  Heck, the Unofficial Species Menagerie still sees use even though it's been quite some time since it last got an update.

So with that in mind, here's some of the various tweaks I've thought up for the Feng Shui 2 archetypes.  Now to be clear, I like many of these as written, and am certainly not claiming that my proposed alterations are necessarily better.  They're simply different.

Everyday Hero (FS pg43)
About the only real changes I'd think of making would be swap out the Info skills for things not quite so stereotypical but still reflecting that the archetype is that of the ordinary Joe/Jane that's found themselves dragged into a life of adventure and danger.

Alternatively, you could go for a bit more of a Jack Burton feel by dropping a couple of the skills and either take the Blam Blam Epigram schtick (FS2 pg124), or as Taigia suggested modify it to "Wham Wham Epigram" and have the effects apply to a Martial Arts attack instead, though perhaps restricted to fists and improvised weapons rather than any melee weapon.  Either way, it gets you a nice boost for making a pithy one-liner, which is something most players are bound to be doing anyway.

Martial Artist (FS2 pg65)
Replace Hands Without Shadow, Lightning Fist, and Dim Mak with one of the following sets:
Set 1 - The Bruce Lee Clone: Hammer Punch, Back Leg Kick, Target the Core
Set 2 - Wuxia Themed: Prodigious Leap, Horse Stance, Crane Stance
Set 3 - The Brute: Claw of the Tiger, Tiger Stance, Unyielding Tiger Stance
Set 4 - The Ultimate 'Chucker: Cyclone of Wood and Chain, Rain of Pain, Signature Weapon
Set 5 - The Drunken Boxer: Drunken Stance, Drunken Fist, Wily Stupor

Maverick Cop (FS2 pg69)
For a bit less Dirty Harry,  swap out the S&W Model 29 and Winchester Model 70 for a Berreta M9 autoloader (also noted as the character's Signature Weapon) and a Remington 870 Police shotgun.  You could also drop Police skill's Action Value by 1 and add it to Driving to make the Maverick Cop a bit more capable in a vehicle chase.

Spy (FS2 pg85)
Aside from swapping out the Walther PPK for a bigger handgun (though probably want to stick to something that's got a low Concealment rating just to keep with the theme), you could re-arrange the Action Values of the Spy's skills as follows to be a bit less Moore!Bond and a bit more Craig!Bond:
Deceit - reduce to 13
Info: Food & Drink - reduce to 12
Detective - add at rank 12
Sabotage - add at rank 12

In a similar vein, swap Guns and Martial Arts to make Guns the Backup Attack at 13 and Martial Arts the main attack at 14 for a Spy that's more focused on melee beatdowns.  Still keep the Integrated Training to reflect the Spy being able to quickly mix up their attacks and keep foes off-balance.

I'll probably have more down the line, such as alternative set-ups for the Supernatural Creature archetype and maybe even some pre-set schtick set-ups for the other Transformed Creatures, but those will be a later post.  To be honest, a lot of my focus on the FS2 archetypes have been those that would function within a modern setting, something that a lot of the supernatural types such as the creatures and the sorcerer aren't very good at.  But now that I've codified these proposed changes, I may at some point get around to figuring some alternate set-ups for a few other archetypes.

August 23, 2015

Of Stars and Dragons and Frozen Wolf Zombies

Okay, so things got a tad more hectic than expected, but at least it's not been as long in between updates this time around.

My old PC, an eMachines tower I got fairly inexpensively for a pretty low price several years ago started developing all sorts of worrisome habits, foremost of these being random crashes and trouble starting up.  Which meant a new PC, which I now have.

Having had a really good track record with Dell PCs, I went with an Inspiron, and the difference in performance between the two is night and day.  It was on the costly side, but my financial situation is a lot better than it was several years ago, thanks to a steady job with a very nice pay rate and having managers that weren't trying to screw me out of pay increases.  Sure, I could have custom built one for cheaper and with bigger/badder performance, but I'm not super tech-savvy and my Dell covers what I need it to do and then some.

But since I started this blog to mostly talk about gaming, I figure I should start doing that.

A few weeks ago, I kicked off a brand new Force and Destiny campaign.  I'm sure most of you that read this blog have already seen reviews praising the quality of the book (the art is astounding from start to finish), and how FFG seems to have circumvented the problem that Force users presented in prior Star Wars RPGs of simply overshadowing the rest of the party.  I know that was a major concern in Saga Edition, and it cropped up in WEG's d6 system if a Jedi was played for more than a dozen or so sessions.

I've got a pretty interesting mix of characters, ranging from Nolt, a Zabrak Seeker/Hunter to Stell, a Human Smuggler/Thief/Gunslinger that attacks with throwing knives instead of blasters (and mechanically seem to be working quite well) to Ordo and Zara, a pair of Human fraternal twins that were once Jedi initiates (Guardian/Soresu Defender and Mystic/Seer respectively).  They're an interesting group, thanks in no small part to the quality of the players I've got.

Thus far, I've run them through Mountaintop Rescue from the Beginner Box and a part of the Lure of the Lost expansion module, though I've dropped the multiple holocrons plot and instead focused on the icewolf caves as the main source of the dark side corruption that drew Malefax in the first place.  Overall, the group's having fun, though I do feel bad for Ordo's player and share his frustration that his attacks with an Ancient Sword (rolling 3 proficiency at this point) frequently tend to end in failure with lots of Advantage.  Maybe that will change when Ordo is ready to stop hiding from his Jedi past and once again take up a lightsaber (something the player has advised he wants to wait for until the "timing is just right" for his character).  After the last adventure, the group did pick up a mascot in the form of an icewolf pup.  I think that after a tough fight with the revenant icewolf den mother (module isn't clear if she's still alive or not, so I went with undead), asking them all to make Daunting Cool checks made them all sweat... although the check was simply to see if they could avoid going "awwwww" at the cute little icewolf pup.  I'm really looking forward to their next few adventures, especially as they won't be quite so heavily focused on the Force.

Although we're not currently playing Linda's Age of Rebellion game (where none of the PCs actually used AoR careers), I've been taking a fresh look at the modified Shii-Cho Knight that I created back during the FaD Beta as an alternative to the purely melee-focused official version.  I was hoping that maybe the final product would at least give nod to Shii-Cho having some inherent defense against ranged attacks, but alas that was not to be.

With the new PC set up and running, I decided it was time to scratch a particular gaming itch, and go about replaying Dragon Age: Origins.  I bought the game when it came out (though only my laptop of the time could actually run it), even buying a decent portion of the DLC.  Well, sadly it seems that it'd been so long that I'd used my old EA account that it had been deleted.  However, a far less costly alternative presented itself in the form of the DA:O Ultimate Edition, which has all the DLC included plus Awakenings, as well as it being pretty easy to snag all the pre-order bonuses for free on top of that.  Best ten bucks I've spent in a while.

So yeah, been playing through the various origin stories, which was the one thing that really hooked me into the game, that each PC had a pretty in-depth introduction as opposed to the general trend of "here's your main hero, and off into the grand adventure you go!"  With the origin stories, you actually have a chance to get to know the history of your character a bit more, with the Human Noble and Dalish Elf probably being my two favorites of the lot.

Of course, playing the computer game has also gotten me to thinking about the RPG that Green Ronin created, as well as their Fantasy AGE system that is an evolution of the DA:RPG.  My Friday night gaming group seemed to grove on DA:RPG the couple times I got to run the system for them.  Maybe something to keep on hand as a back-up just in case one of our regularly scheduled games gets put on hold for some reason.

I've also been reading through my copy of Feng Shui 2, another game I'd like to try running at some point.  Being an incessant tinker monkey as Cyril put it, I've been toying around with tweaks to the various archetypes.  Nothing super-drastic, mostly little things like altering the weapons load-out the Maverick Cop (probably my favorite of all the archetypes, if only because it was so fun to play at GamerNationCon) is packing, or what Fu Powers the Martial Arist has (namely swapping out the Dim Mak stuff for Wing Chun to make true Bruce Le clone), or simply tweaking what skills and skill bonuses the Spy has (little less Connery/Moore!Bond, little more Craig!Bond).

Lastly, also been playing in Eric's re-launched Emerald City Knights campaign for Mutants & Masterminds 3e, and still playing my take on Spider-Man.  After playing in Kyle's cosmic-themed game, it was nice to pick up Spidey once again.  He's a fun build, with a lot of variety and options to handle most situations, both in and out of combat.  Still has no clue when it comes to women though, as there are early signs of him getting embroiled in a love triangle involving two other super-powered ladies, and he might be super-aware to most forms of danger, I get the feeling this one is going to wind up blindsiding him.  The most recent session was a bit rough, as there was some miscommunication between me and the GM on a couple points, but it all worked out and we're on our way to a big throwdown with what I suspect is the current arc's BBEG.

That's about all for this week in terms of gaming-related stuff.  I do have a new job (same company, different department) that's had its own challenges but so far I seem to be doing pretty good and managing to stay on top of things.

August 1, 2015

What a week it's been...

So made it through July without completely loosing my sanity, though will confess there were a couple points it was a near thing.

It's now the month of August, and I've made it through my first week in my new job.  I'm still with the same company, but I've finally been able to transfer out of the department that I've spent over a decade working in.  While the old job was steady, it had also become pretty mind-numbing in terms of routine; much like Jack Skellington I'd grown quite tired of the same routine day after day.  As for the new job, it's been a gradual start as there's various bits of access that I still need, but already there's been new challenges and next week's looking up to be quite interesting indeed.

On the downside, my personal computer is pretty much started to give up the ghost; I've joked with my long-time friend Linda that it's decided to take a page from her laptop (semi-affectionately dubbed HAL) in terms of not being very cooperative in working.  Had a lot of hassles getting into Windows, but I've got a work-around so that I can at least use the machine in the interim.  Now, I knew that a new computer was going to be on the horizon, as my current one quite a few years old and wasn't a top-line model when I got it; it was cheap and did what I needed it to do, so I can't complain too loudly.  I do have a new PC on order and en route courtesy of Dell, though FedEx is taking its sweet time in delivering it, but hopefully I'll have it on my doorstep by the middle of next week.

And speaking of FedEx, there's a reason I don't use them unless I've got zero other choices.  Dell's shipping options were FedEx or nothing, and an online gaming shop that I pre-ordered a book from also relies solely upon FedEx.  Well, in terms of that RPG book, it was shipped this past Tuesday and from what my tracking number says, it's not showing up until Thursday at best.  My new PC hasn't suffered any delays, but with the craptastic track record that FedEx has in terms of delivering my purchase, I'm half-expecting some kind of delay and that new PC to now show up until the week after next.

But, the week's not been all bad or all crazy.  Though it's a day late, I am enjoying a bit of Christmas in July, at least in terms of getting various goodies.

First of these was snagging my copy of the Force and Destiny core rulebook for Fantasy Flight Game's excellent Star Wars RPG.  I pretty much spent most of my evening poring through the book, enjoying the A+ artwork (which is pretty much standard with FFG products) as well as seeing what changed between the Beta+Updates and the final product.  The number of changes were pretty minor, with only the Protector spec getting a major revamp in terms of layout and Heal/Harm also being tweaked.  Sadly, the Shii-Cho Knight is still pretty much melee-only in terms of defensive traits, so it seems I'll still be employing my homebrew Shii-Cho Knight specialization.  But overall, I like the book and am really looking forward to kicking off a new brand new Force and Destiny campaign.  Most of the players have their characters ready to go, though we were mostly waiting for the FaD corebook to drop so we could see what tweaks would need to be made; luckily the careers and specializations selected didn't have any major changes that would impact the characters.

The new adventure in the back of the core rulebook was amusingly familiar, being quite similar to the Force and Destiny adventure that was being run at GenCon last year, although with some rather notable changes to make it more suitable for beginning characters.  It's also a nice contrast to the Beta adventure in that "Lessons from the Past" doesn't end with the PCs now having lightsabers, though they do get a nice resource at the adventure's conclusion that can be used to convey a bevy of plot hooks to a group.

I also picked up the GM Kit, and while the screen is nice, the main draw for me was the supplemental rules on lightsaber construction and discussion on Knight Level characters.  Truthfully, while nice I probably won't make use of the expanded lightsaber construction rules; the main quest in this system is more about the PC getting their crystal with the building of the lightsaber handled as more of a side element.  The adventure was kinda meh; not sure I'd ever run it for my upcoming campaign as-is, but I could always adapt it down the line.

Now a while back I'd backed the Kickstarter for a new edition of the classic RPG Feng Shui.  Sadly, I never really got the chance to play the game before, but simply loved how cool it looked and just the basic notion of an RPG that was meant to replicate the sort of things you'd expect to see in a Hong Kong martial arts flick as well an 80's action movie.  I did get a chance to play Feng Shui at this year's GamerNationCon, and while the dice weren't overly cooperative and my one-liners needed some work, I still had a lot of fun playing as the Maverick Cop.  I'm not sure if or when I'll have a chance to play or run this myself, but I may angle for at least a one-shot with either my Friday Skype group or my Saturday face-to-face group.  Well, the hardcover copy of Feng Shui 2 showed up yesterday, though I've not really gotten a chance to pour through.  I've got the PDF so I've got a pretty good idea of what's inside, but I just find reading the actual book so much more enjoyable than reading a PDF.

In similar news of hardcover RPG books, the copy of the Dragon Age RPG core rulebook arrived as well.  Now I've not touched Dragon Age in a while, so again this will probably be a "find time to sit down and read" to really get up to speed on what's changed in regards to the three box sets.  Of course, in a sense this RPG is already outdated as Green Ronin has released their Fantasy AGE system, an updated version of the rules used in Dragon Age.  Not sure when or if I'll pick that up, but since I was a backer for the AGE version of Blue Rose, I guess I'll get those newer rules one way or another.

But aside from the obvious capstone of getting the Force and Destiny books (let's face it, when it comes to RPGs, the fact that I am a major Star Wars nerd is going to very heavily flavor my preferences), earlier in the week I also got a very LARGE package courtesy of BigBadToyStore, something I'd ordered a while ago as kind of an early birthday present to myself.  Between computer issues and various RPG books, I'd not opened that box until this morning.  And inside was something that made my inner child grin with glee...

While my big fave amongst fandoms is and always will be Star Wars, a close second is Transformers.  I had a bunch of them growing up, and as an adult have picked up a whole bunch more from various product line ranging from the re-issues to the Classics to the movies (only a few though) to Masterpiece series and up to Combiner Wars, as well as a few 3rd party kits.  But one of the figures I'd never picked up was the Constructicons, mostly as I remember that they were pretty flimsy (a friend of mine had them) and you could tell that they were a first attempt at designing a combiner out of components that were themselves transforming robots.

But when combined, this version of Devastator is not flimsy and you can tell that Hasbro/Takara have learned a lot about designing figures for the Transformers series since the 80's.  Each individual Constructicon is a Voyager-class figure, meaning their big and frankly pretty beefy; I could see these guys standing up to actual play without much fear of breaking.  It also means that in their robot modes they generally dwarf the Deluxe line figures.

And the combined robot... yeah, this sucker is HUGE.  It's pretty sturdy, although the balance isn't perfect as the right leg is reliant upon Scrapper and the front scoop could very easily shift and cause the whole figure to go tumbling down.  Which given the price point is a pretty worrisome thought even to a very casual collector like me.  Were I an actual kid, this sucker would quite probably be the holy grail of potential gifts.  I put a LEGO mini-fig (a Clone Commander specifically) up next to Devastator, and the little clone trooper was absolutely dwarfed.  While I've not checked out much else of the Combiner Wars line (the figures are getting ridiculously expensive at this point), I have to say I'm pretty darn impressed with the quality of Devastator, both combined and in individual components.  It was a very pricy purchase (well over $100 bucks), but I think it was worth it.

Last but certainly not least, though it is kinda leaning into the week prior (but still part of July), I got to spend last Saturday evening enjoying dinner with my good friends Amy and Tiff, enjoying some very good sausage and ziti as well as finally playing a round of Betrayal at Haunted House on the Hill.  I've heard a lot of good things about the game, but just never got the chance to sit down and play.  We lost spectacularly once the Haunt came up, but it was still fun and many laughs were had, which is why people get together to game in the first place.

Well, that's enough yapping from me this time out.  I've got a series of Force and Destiny pre-gens that I'm going to be getting ready to post in the coming days, to commemorate the power of this fully armed and operational Star Wars role-playing game, so expect to see various posts next week.  I've also got a two groups of ready-made PCs for Age of Rebellion and Edge of the Empire, all set to be used in an extended campaign or pulled in for a single one-shot, so expect them as well later on.