July 13, 2020

Wow, look how time's flown!

My how the world has changed since I last posted.  Needless to say, anyone's expectations for how 2020 would turn out have been largely scuttled, especially those occurring from mid-May onwards, especially for those of us living in the United States.

To be fair, I'd meant to make several posts in the time between then and now, but just never seemed to get around to it.  Then again, I have mentioned this would get sporadic updates as opposed to constant ones, and I generally hold to the opinion that I should really only say something if I feel I've got something to say.

As for how I'm weathering the current state of affairs, to be quite honest not a whole lot has changed for me.  I've pretty much been working remotely from my apartment since late last year, with the only difference being that I'm now officially a full-time work-at-home employee.  Which suits me fine, as most of the folks that I knew in the actual office have themselves transitioned to working remotely full-time or have left the company, some by choice but most not.

In early March I made the trip to Walt Disney World along with my mother, with my main intent to spend as much time as I could hanging out in Galaxy's Edge.  And I will admit that the work Disney put into that section of Hollywood Studios was amazing, as it very much looked like a place you'd see in a Star Wars film.  The Millennium Falcon ride was a lot of fun, with my favorite position being pilot; sadly if you do the single rider line, you're pretty much stuck being an engineer, which was the most boring position.  I did plan ahead and booked a session at Savi's Workshop to build my own lightsaber, opting for a purple crystal and an Old Republic themed hilt; I did also pick up a blue and red kyber crystal as well as a Jedi holocron, as well as the obligatory t-shirts and stuff for a few other folks.  The only downer was that my mother and I caught what she believes was a (luckily) very mild case of the coronavirus, with us having a nasty cough and sore throats; the worst of mine went away in about a week with a lingering cough for another couple weeks, but other than that I'm fine with no other symptoms.

Now one of the things I do miss due having to social distance is the Friday night live table gaming, which began with an Adventures in Middle Earth campaign, using Cubicle7's D&D5e adaptation of their One Ring game, with the campaign starting out with an adaption of the Lost Mines of Phandelver adventure.  In that game, I played a Dunedain Wanderer (their version of a non-magical Ranger with some generally better class features) that was unashamedly an Aragorn-clone, though completely lacking in leadership traits.  It was a fun game, but wound up falling by the wayside as half the players in that group just didn't care for playing online, and I get the feeling that campaign has pretty much been scuttled.

Fortunately, enough of us remained and were able to rope in a couple newer local folks that we knew and had zero issues with playing via Zoom (we tried Skype and Discord, but there were connection issues that we've not had with Zoom), and have launched into a D&D 5e campaign, one that is very much in the theme of gothic horror, but per the DM is not set in Ravenloft, though I'd be very surprised if he's not pulled elements of the Ravenloft setting to populate this Uberwald region.  I've very much enjoyed playing Esryn Vandryr, a Half-Elf Blood Hunter of the Order of the Profane Soul, using the 2020 updated version that Matt Mercer published much earlier in the year.  It's amusing, as I initially made the character as a "what if?" concept, with no aspirations of him ever seeing play, so getting to actually play this snarky, semi-broody hunter of monsters has been a great deal of fun.  We've got an interesting crew, including a couple of characters for whom the players unapologetically took inspiration from Critical Role, being a female human monk (Beau) and a tiefling genderfluid bard (Mollymauk in personality), though our monk (who with the GM's approval is using the updated Path of the Cobalt Soul subclass that Matt Mercer posted online some time ago) is much more cheerful and socially adjusted, perhaps being the most upbeat and energetic PCs of the group (though not anywhere near Jester levels).

Speaking of Mister Mercer, I guess I can officially consider myself a Critter, as I'm very much on the Critical Role bandwagon.  While Campaign 1 had some rough patches, I've generally enjoyed Campaign 2, with my favorite characters being Jester (who honestly doesn't love how Laura Bailey portrays the adorably bubbly and mischievous little blue tiefling girl?) and Caleb (Liam O'Brian does a fantastic job balancing the pathos involved without drowning the entire campaign in it).  It was rough not having the show to look forward to, but I totally get why they shut things down until a safe way to continue the sessions could be implemented.  Though I've also been enjoying their Narrative Telephone series, and do hope that continues for the foreseeable future.

Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 and the current federal administration's absolutely botched job of handling the pandemic, the another thing that I'm missing out on this year is GamerNationCon.  While I ultimately wasn't planning on running anything, it's still nice to get together with members of the D20Radio network to roll some dice and exchange stories.  But with Texas being in the condition it is now, I can't see anyway they'd be able to hold the convention this year, and unless things seriously change even trying to hold it in April 2021 might be a stretch.  I hope that's not case, and that once a new administration takes effect in January things will start to drastically improve.  But sadly, I've lost a lot of faith in humanity over the past several months, so I'm setting my expectations really low.

Another thing I very much miss is opportunities to hang out over lunch or dinner with my long-time friends Amy and Tiff.  I miss the two of you horribly, and hope that you both remain safe and sound; once things are under control and it's safe to do, I am eager for an opportunity to get together over good food and hear all about Amy's initial efforts of running a campaign of her own.

Back to personal gaming, a couple weeks ago, on the night of the Fourth of July, I concluded my Force and Destiny campaign.  I'd started this campaign way back in August of 2015, though with a number of breaks so that other folks could run games, especially during those times when one of the players was unavailable for personal reasons (some good, some alas painful).  The campaign, called the Errant Ventures, ran for a grand sum of 43 sessions, with the PCs generally being at around 1000 XP.  The group enjoyed it, and as a GM it's reassuring to hear that your players are saddened for a campaign to end due to their ties and investment into the world you've created.  I will admit that it was fun to have the PCs from my friend Linda's sadly aborted Age of Rebellion game show up as cameo appearances, especially as it was the same group of gamers that had played the members of Roke Squad that played in my F&D campaign.  I did mention to them that I wasn't adverse to returning to those characters at some future point, but sadly one of the glaring problems that's shown itself with the FFG system is that it can be difficult to remember all the stuff a PC can do (especially if they're a Force user) if you've not played that character for several months.

Currently, we're gearing up for Linda to run the Onslaught at Arda campaign for a new group of Age of Rebellion PCs, with that due to properly start up come the first weekend in August, with that running however many weeks it takes.  Sadly, one of the players has a prior commitment for the next couple weeks, so August is the soonest we could start.  But this should be fun, as it gives me a chance to once again play my Chadra-Fan Engineer/Saboteur whose quasi-Brooklyn accent is in zero way indicative of his being a pastiche of a certain explosives-loving, gun-totting anthromorphic procyon lotor whose good with motors.

The other game that is being worked on by my Canadian buddy Eric is a new Mutants and Masterminds campaign.  He'd made the decision that it was time to bring the story of the Stormbreakers, the team of heroes that had started with the long-faded Punching for Justice podcast, to a premature conclusion.  We did have a pre-Session zero conversation this past Saturday, both to discuss how events of what would have been the final sessions would play out and how our PCs would be involved in the gigantic galactic event that would be thwarting Collapsar's attack on Earth, as well as the aftermath and why this iteration of the Stormbreakers would go their separate ways.

Now, I'll be honest in that a part of me is going to miss the opportunity to play my take on Spider-Man, and someone did mention "you could just a Miles Morales and make a legacy character!" but that just doesn't feel right, and it does feel like it's time to put that character aside and let him become a background element of Emerald City, being one of its few active superheroes and one that's very much paying attention to lower-level street crime (in between juggling college courses, a paid intern program at MarsTech, and maintaining a long-distance relationship).

However, I am looking forward to the new campaign, as we're playing teenage heroes in the newly founded "supers school" of Arcadia Academy.  I've come to really like Emerald City as a campaign setting, and it'll be fun to play a new hero (very much leaning into a Paragon archetype for this one, making for a substantial change from Spider's role in the Stormbreakers) in a setting that I'm more familiar with now and that has a history that I and the other players have helped shape.  Plus, high school hijinks and the various emotional minefields that come with playing teenagers, especially ones who truly have the power to change the world around them.

And that's pretty much the summary of what's been going on.  So, yeah. *cue outro music*

January 1, 2020

Homebrew Arms and Equipment for FFG's Star Wars RPG

Wow, two entries within that many weeks?  Yeah, I don't expect that pattern to continue either.

So to ring in the new year, I thought I'd offer up some of the various weapons, armor, gear, and personal items that I've come up with for use with Fantasy Flight Games' Star Wars RPG.  I'm also including why I created each item.  It's worth noting that I've been working here and there on the meat of this particular post for a while, deciding what to include and what adjustments might be needed.  There are a number of other items that I've created for this game over the years, though the majority of them can be found in my old Ways of the Force fan supplement if you're interested


Padded Flight Suit
Favored by pilots and spacers across the galaxy, these one-piece protective garments provide limited life support, protecting the wearer from the harsh effects of vacuum as well as lessening some of the adverse effects of high-velocity flying.
Encumbrance: 4
Price: 250 credits
Rarity: 3
Soak Value: 1
Defense Value: 0
Hard Points: 1
Features: When sealed, the wearer can ignore the effects of vacuum or poisonous atmospheric environments for up to 30 minutes.

Why is this a thing? A good friend of mine really likes the snubjock mold of character, even if she doesn't get many opportunities to play that type of character.  We both felt it was an oversight that something like the near-ubiquitous Alliance flight suit really didn't get any sort of coverage, and were both dismayed when Stay on Target missed the opportunity to address that.  I know that one of the FFG freelancers (Jason Marker I think it was) poo-poo'd the idea of Rebel/Resistance flight suits offering any sort of protection to the wearer, but I think on that point he's full of it.  So, I wound up porting over the padded flight suit from WotC's Star Wars RPGs.  From what friends in the Rebel Legion have told me, those get-ups are not exactly easy to move around in, thus why this suit has such a high Encumbrance value, as the various tubes and straps are going to hinder one's movement, even if only a little.

Security Uniform
Common ballistic uniform worn by local soldiers, ship security, and law enforcement. Comfortable, but with a blast helmet giving a definite military appearance.
Encumbrance: 2
Price: 250 credits
Rarity: 4
Soak Value: 1
Defense Value: 0
Features: Includes a helmet comlink attachment, and the wearer adds an Advantage to any Coercion or Leadership checks made in which the wearer is presumed to have a position of authority.

Why is this a thing?  I don't know about the rest of you, but I've run enough fringe type games where the PCs for some reason or another swipe the uniforms of the local guards.  Granted, it's not the same as Han and Luke stealing stormtrooper armor during A New Hope, but its happened enough times I figured that I'd go ahead and come up with something like this, which can function for Imperials, corporate security, and
even royal guardsmen.

Tailored Clothing
Using any number of design aesthetics and distinctive color palettes to catch the eyes of onlookers, these outfits can be found in a plethora of styles and fashions, running the gamut from from the tactfully subtle to outrageously flamboyant, and are well-suited for those occasions when the wearer is wants to make a solid impression on those around them.
Encumbrance: 3
Price: 300 credits
Rarity: 5
Soak Value: 1
Defense Value: 0
Features: Add an Advantage to any successful Charm, Deception, or Negotiation checks the wearer makes when interacting with others and can be seen.

Why is this a thing?  So this is pretty much the equivalent of the custom-fitted three-piece suit or tailor-made evening gown, making the wearer look good but without the outrageous price tag that a truly custom designer outfit would command.  It's a nice boost for social-focused characters.  There are items that do similar for a higher price tag, but I'm not that worried since this counts as armor, and a character can only benefit from one set of armor.


Adventurer's Utility Belt 
Marketed and sold under a variety of brand names by several different manufacturers to professional scouts, and amateur explorers alike, this style of utility belt contains a number of useful items for dealing with the hazards that one can encounter when out in the less civilized portions of the galaxy.  The belt's contents are arrayed in such a way as to not encumber the wearer while also providing a couple of empty pouches for whatever else the wearer might have need of, as well as attachment points on either side for a holster or weapon clip.
Category: Survival
Price: 600 credits
Rarity: 3
Features: Contains the following items: a handheld comlink, an emergency medpac, a glow rod, a condensed tool kit, a personal respirator, a spare energy cell, a roll of mesh tape, a liquid cable dispenser (15 meters) and grappling hook, and one week's supply of food capsules.  In addition, this item increases the wearer's Encumbrance Threshold by one.

Why is this a thing? So one item that I always liked from Saga Edition was the utility belt, as it made gear shopping for a lot of my characters very easy; just spend your credits and you've got most of what you need in one place.  Most of what's in this item is what's found in the Saga Edition version, sans the power pack aka extra reload.  The price is a bit higher than what Saga Edition listed, but that's due to a combination of the cost of what's included and the fact that the belt doesn't add to the character's encumbrance total, which lets them carry a lot more other stuff.

Decorative Jewelry
Consisting of a wide and varied array and styles and made using a combination of semi-precious stones and polished metals, decorative jewelry adds a bit of class to one's appearance without being too overtly ostentatious.
Category: Luxury Items
Price: 500 credits
Rarity: 5
Features: Add an Advantage to any successful Charm or Deception checks the wearer makes when interacting with others and can be seen.

Why is this a thing? This came up during an early EotE campaign I was in, where one of the PCs wanted her Twi'lek Smuggler/Scoundrel to have something that would make her look "extra fancy" and provide a boost on her social skills (namely Charm and Deception).  Funny thing was, I cooked up an early version of these about the time I got offered to do playtesting for Desperate Allies, which had the similar Expensive Jewelry item in it.  Like a lot of what's in that supplement, I feel the official item is overpriced or what it does, so I don't mind that this item about the same at a fraction of the cost.  Plus, it's a fun item for characters from a well-to-do background (or those pretending to be from such) to have without needing to break the bank.

Personal Multitool
Offered in a bewildering variety of styles and replate with a number of small yet useful implements, these small devices have proven useful in a pinch to numerous beings across the galaxy.
Category: Tools
Encumbrance: 1
Price: 100 credits
Rarity: 2
Features:The user is considered to have the proper tools when performing Mechanics checks to repair or modify simple devices or when performing Skulduggery checks to open or disable simple locks.

Why is this a thing? Because what is a MacGuyver style of character without their ubiquitous Swiss Army knife?  This way, a character with Mechanics and/or Skulduggery can attempt to do their thing without necessarily having to lug around a full-blown tool kit.  Granted, it's not as good as having the full-blown proper kit for the job, but it's better than nothing.  That and I wanted to have an option out there for characters to be able to modify the attachments on their gear without necessarily having to have access to a full blown tool kit.

Portable Fire Extinguisher
Small and easily portable, these devices are most often used to douse flames, but more than a few creative individuals have used them to create an impromptu if short-lived smokescreen.
Category: Tools
Encumbrance: 1
Price: 50 credits
Rarity: 1
Features: This is a one-use item, and must be replaced after each usage.

Why is this a thing? Because we saw R2-D2 use one to such memorable effect during the Bespin escape in The Empire Strikes Back.  It's here in part as a former gaming companion of mine had a huge thing for astromech droids, to the point that any Star Wars game he was in, he'd play an astromech unless the GM went out of their way to disallow it.  Also, I figure it's a nice thing for a repair/technical droid to have on them without having to flip a Destiny Point any time they wanted to provide some impromptu concealment for their allies.

Security Kit
Comprised of a special set of tools and devices for the express purpose of bypassing electronic and mechanical security measures, most worlds treat the possession of such a kit as illegal, thus requiring specialized permits to legally carry.
Category: Security
Encumbrance: 2
Price: 750 credits
Rarity: 5(R)
Features: Remove 2 Threat from the results from any Computers or Skulduggery checks made to defeat a mechanical or simple electronic lock.

Why is this a thing? So I came up with this one well before Fly Casual introduced the far cheaper Lockpicking Tools, mostly a less-sophisticated version of the electronic lock breaker that would give sneaky types a bonus to their efforts to get past more conventional locking systems without lugging around a full tool kit.  The bonus does seem a bit good at first pass, enough so that I considered limiting the effects to successful skill checks, but I ultimately decided that the higher price tag was enough of a balancing factor.


The preferred weapon of duelists from the remote world of Adumar, the blastsword is an unusual combination of a standard vibroblade and the inner workings of a blaster. At the weapon's tip sits an emitter nozzle which glows and hums audibly when the weapon is activated.
Skill: Melee
Encumbrance: 2
Price: 1200 credits
Rarity: 8
Damage: 6
Range: Engaged
Critical: 2
Hard Points: 1
Qualities: Defensive 1, Stun Setting

Why is this a thing? Okay, on this one I'll cop to it just being silly; it was silly when introduced in Starfighters of Adumar, it was silly when I wrote the Saga Edition stats for the Unknown Regions sourcebook, and it's still silly now.  And that's why I like this weapon, which was aptly described by Wes Janson as "a blaster you hit somebody with," and that one listener to the Order 66 podcast denounced as sounding like something from a bad Final Fantasy game.  I've yet to see or play a character with this weapon, mostly as the specs that lean themselves towards melee combat lean towards the brutish side of things while the dueling-orientated specs are focused more on using lightsabers than swords.

Double-Barreled Blaster Carbine
A favored weapon of bounty hunters, enforcers, and those who generally live on society's fringe, the double-barreled carbine packs a rather substantial punch for its unassuming size.
Skill: Ranged (Heavy)
Encumbrance: 3
Price: 1200 credits
Rarity: 6(R)
Damage: 8
Range: Medium
Critical: 3
Hard Points: 1
Qualities: Linked 1, Stun Setting

Why is this a thing? Yes, it's from the Legacy comic book series, but it's essentially a sawed-off double-barreled shotgun that fires blaster bolts.  The version of the weapon that appeared in Saga Edition's Legacy Era Campaign Guide gave it what in FFG's system amounts to the Blast quality, but there's already enough Ranged (Heavy) blasters that offer up the Blast quality.  That, and with it being double-barreled, using the Linked quality made more sense, even if it does make this weapon a lot more dangerous in a fight, thus why it has the restricted tag next to the price.

Electroshock Prod
Usually attached to droids, the probe emits a brief electrical discharge capable of shorting out a computer terminal or security lock.
Skill: Ranged (Light)
Encumbrance: 1
Price: 100 credits
Rarity: 2
Damage: 5
Range: Short
Critical: n/a
Hard Points: 1
Qualities:Disorient 1, Stun Damage

Why is this a thing? So this kinda initially came from the old KOTOR video games, with the idea that your astromech companion could use small blasters to assist in combat, but was largely codified by Chopper, the cantankerous astromech from Star Wars Rebels.  It's a low-powered weapon that lets droid PCs, especially if they're playing some variety of astromech, be able to make ranged attacks without having to pick up full-blown blaster weapons (assuming they care about that sort of thing).

Fighting Pike
Typically made of either fire-hardened wood or well-crafted metal, the fighting pike is a preferred weapon for itinerent monks, being not only innocuous in appearance, but surprisingly effective in the hands of a skilled wielder.
Skill: Melee
Encumbrance: 3
Price: 1000 credits
Rarity: 3
Damage: +3
Range: Engaged
Hard Points:2
Qualities: Defensive 1, Disorient 2, Knockdown, Superior

Why is this a thing? Because there really isn't anything that covers Chirrit's staff from Rogue One, not even in the Dawn of Rebellion supplement where they introduced the Force Adherent universal spec, which is pretty much "You want to play a warrior monk like Donny Yen's character?  Here you go!"  I suppose there's the gaffi stick from the EotE core rulebook, or the heavy staff from TFA Beginner Box, but both of those feel lacking.  The price feels a little low for having the Superior quality baked in, but given ho much of a general disadvantage most melee weapon users are at in this game compared to ranged weapons or to lightsabers, I'm not too concerned about it.

Sporting Blaster Rifle
A favored weapon of bounty hunters, enforcers, and those who generally live on society's fringe, the double-barreled carbine packs a rather substantial punch for its unassuming size..
Skill: Ranged (Heavy)
Encumbrance: 4
Price: 800 credits
Rarity: 5
Damage: 8
Range: Long
Critical: 3
Hard Points:2
Qualities: Accurate 1, Stun Setting

Why is this a thing? This was something I came up with in the early days of the system, wanting something that sat between rifles and carbines but not being quite so military in nature; as the name suggests it's a sporting weapon that civilians could carry around without getting into too much trouble.

Tapani Lightfoil
Although the first lightfoils were creations of the Sith operating in the Tapani Sector, during the time of the Empire a sub-culture of young nobles known as “Saber Rakes” have taken to wielding modern recreations of the lightfoil. Although not as potent a weapon as a lightsaber, the Tapani lightfoil is still a dangerous weapon; a sure sign that one is dealing with an experienced Saber Rake is the presence of a cybernetic prosthesis, often earned as the result of being on the losing end of a lightfoil duel. A Saber Rake without such a prosthesis is either a novice duelist or a very skilled swordsman.
Skill: Lighsaber
Encumbrance: 1
Price: 4500 credits
Rarity: 8(R)
Damage: 5
Range: Engaged
Critical: 2
Hard Points: 1
Qualities: Accurate 1, Defensive 1, Pierce 2
Features: A Despair result from any combat check made using this weapon can be spent to have it short out and deactivate after the combat check has been resolved.  The weapon may be reactivated as an incidental, but not until after the last initiative slot during the following round  If this weapon is used with the Parry or Reflect talents, the attacker can spend a Triumph to trigger the same effect on the weapon.

Why is this a thing? So one of my favorite settings from the WEG era was the Tapani Expanse, as detailed in the Lords of the Expanse boxed set, with the lightfoil being such a fun weapon in concept, providing a means to have lightsaber duels without necessarily bringing in lightsabers or even Jedi for that matter.  I've had versions of this in the past, and often struggled with getting the right balance between it being useful in a fight while still retaining it's quirky nature but keeping it from being as potent as a proper lightsaber.  I ultimately decided to just employ the effects of refined cortosis weapons from the F&D core rulebook to mimic the Tapani lightfoil's unreliability, and from the handful of test combats I've run, it does seem to work without requiring a bunch of extra rolls.

December 25, 2019

The (Once Again) End of The Skywalker Saga

Firstly, a Merry Christmas to one and all who celebrate the holiday, and a Happy Holidays to those who celebrate Hanukkah, Kwanza, or other festive events that occur this season.

Now, fair warning that if you've not seen The Rise of Skywalker, there's going to be some major spoilers in this post, so consider yourselves warned...
Okay, now that that's out of the way, on to my thoughts and impressions of what's been billed as the final installment of the Skywalker Saga aka the tale one family's drama effing up the entire galaxy for three generations.  I've seen the film twice thus far, and while I won't be seeing it in the theater again due to the price of tickets and finding the time to go, I'm eager for this movie to hit Disney+ and watch it yet again.

So to start with, on a scale of 1 to 10, I'd put this movie at a 7.5; overall the film was good, I enjoyed it, the cast did great (Adam Driver especially so), but it had problems, the least of which was the first act being a bit too hectic; I normally don't fret that much about so-called "pacing issues" as even action films need to take time to breath, but for much of this film's first act, it did feel like Abrams forgot that stopping to breath is a good thing, and that breakneck action paces aren't always the way to go.  But in general, the film was well shot, well directed, and well produced.  I certainly feel I got my money's worth, which really is all that I ever ask from a movie when I go see it in the theater.

For me, the biggest problem was the ass pull of Rey's status as it was established in The Last Jedi, in which it was revealed that she was a nobody, that as per Kylo Ren's words she "had no place in this story" as she had no special lineage or connection to the major players of the saga, that she was just a girl from pretty much nowhere.  TLJ took pains to highlight that anyone could rise up to become the hero, and how deserving of one's hero status wasn't dependent upon bloodlines.

And then this film decides to undercut that whole message by revealing that Rey has secretly been Palpatine's grandchild all along.  I literally facepalmed in my seat in theater at this, and silently hoped that this reveal turned out to be some kind of manipulative twist, that Palpatine had lied to Kylo Ren, and that Rey was indeed still a "nobody" in terms of her heritage.  The writers did make a (to me at least) half-assed attempt to keep the "your parents were nobody" aspect from TLJ, by saying they went to ground as junk-salvaging drunks who only sold Rey for money to protect her from her (presumably dead at that point) grandfather.  Needless to say, this whole reveal was the biggest strike against the movie, and again feels like it was LFL trying to offer an olive branch to a segment of the fanbase that couldn't accept Rey being strong in the Force for reason other than the plot required it.  Heck, Snoke himself in both TFA and TLJ all but outright says that the only reason Rey is getting so powerful so quickly is that the Force is pushing her up to counterbalance Kylo Ren's growing power.  If you've listened to Freddie Prinze Jr's rant about what the Force is and isn't, then you know that Rey's growth in power was the Force trying to restore balance by creating a champion to counter the growing darkness of Kylo Ren.

I'll be honest in that I was actually disappointed that they trotted out Palpatine as being the major villain behind it all.  I might not have been that disappointed if there'd been hints of Darth Sidious having survived the events of RotJ, but that would have required JJ Abrams and other writers to put some thought into the story of this trilogy as a whole instead just the specific movie they were working on.  Instead, it feels like Palpatine's robes should be covered in brown rather than being all black given where his reappearance came from.

The last element that I guess irked me was the fake-out deaths, which this film did much too often.  I went into this film fully expecting that we were going to see one or more of the good guys take the final jump and go out.  I know a number of folks would have lost their collective shit if Chewie had indeed died when the movie made you think he did, but I feel his death would have added more weight to the scene of Rey's freakout, and that revealing he was alive all along only lessened the impact of that scene, as it felt like her and Finn's reactions were overly dramatic.  I was also onboard with the Falcon, the iconic ship of the franchise, being destroyed during the final battle, with Lando (possibly even Chewie) going out in a heroic blaze of glory, and Lando making one last jaunty quip before it happened.  While I understand that Threepio is a droid and him losing his memories only to have them restored from a backup is a thing, that said thing existed undercut the drama of Threepio's "I'm taking one last look... at my friends" scene, as it was less of a major sacrifice on his part and more of a minor inconvenience for the rest of the group.  Yes, I know Leia died, but with the far too soon passing of Carrie Fisher, we all know that was coming.

So enough of my complaints about what I didn't like, and onto some of the things I did like.  I won't be listing them all, but instead will hit what for me were the real highlights.

Top of the list was that each actor did great, from Daisy Ridley and Oscar Issacs (probably my two faves out of the new heroes) to Billy Dee Williams (it was as if Lando had never really left), and it was indeed a treat to see Rey, Finn, and Poe finally able to interact with and bounce off each other, making me really wish that we'd gotten more of this earlier in the trilogy.

But quite frankly, Adam Driver just fucking killed it from start to finish, especially in the third act where his lack of dialogue would have been a major hindrance for a less capable actor.  Hell, I cracked a grin when during his battle with the Knights of Ren, his expression upon getting the Skywalker lightsaber all but screamed, "game on bitches!" before pulling back to show him giving a very Han Solo-esque shrug before he proceeds to rip each of them a new one.  You could see the anguish on his face as he cradled Rey's lifeless body, the relief when she came back to life, and joy at her having accepted/forgiven him for what he'd done as Kylo Ren, and then the reluctant acceptance that his act of healing Rey meant his own death and becoming one with the Force.  There were a couple of young girls that were apparently Reylo shippers due to their squeals of delight at Ben and Rey's kiss followed by their moans of despair when Ben died and faded away.  This is a purely personal take, but I would have liked to have seen Ben avoid the "redemption = death" trope and survive to try and make amends for his actions as Kylo Ren.  But, like his grandfather Anakin, the boy is all about the drama, and hard to get more dramatic than peacing out after saving the girl you're hot for and sharing a big ol' victory smooch.

Which brings me to the final lightsaber duel between Rey and Kylo.  It was reminiscent not only of RotJ's final duel, but also of RotS' duel between Anakin and Obi-Wan.  Not only was the scene shot well, but you could see and almost feel the intensity in the faces of each combatant, with the duel going on to a point where they're both getting physically exhausted.  It had the feeling of weight that Luke and Vader's duel in ESB had, even though Rey and Kylo were fairly evenly matched up until the very end.  Also the fact that their moves lacked the degree of polish that the prequel fights had lent more weight to the duel.  And then Rey's horrified reaction at what she's done in fatally stabbing Ben and the shock of feeling Leia pass, showing a young woman (she's only 20 as of this film, being a few years younger than Luke and Anakin at the end of their respective trilogies) who is struggling to come to grips with everything that's been happening and just happened; it's no small wonder she fled to Ahch-To and intended to become a hermit in the wake of something like that.

And next up comes the reappearance of Luke Skywalker, not merely as a Force ghost but as the Jedi Master we had all hoped to see in the sequel trilogy, full of renewed faith and jovial humor, making a jocular call back to his casual disregard for his father's lightsaber in TJL.  Now, I know some folks have said that JJ took a big steaming dump over TLJ and how Luke was portrayed there, but I disagree with that.  If anything, we're seeing in TRoS the culmination of that arc, that had Luke survived the events of TLJ, this is the person he would now be, having come through his crisis of faith with said faith not only renewed but stronger than ever, having learned Yoda's final lesson that one shouldn't let their failures define who they are, and that what matters is what you do after failing.  And in his own way, he imparts that same lesson to Rey, going so far as to reinforce that notion that it's what you do and the choices you make that matters the most, rekindling her heroic spirit.  And then there was him lifting the X-Wing out of the ocean's muck, much like Yoda did and with a smirk on his face, showing that this was the Luke that Snoke (and Palpatine by extension I suppose) were very much worried would come back should the Resistance find him.

And then we have Harrison Ford's uncredited appearance as Han Solo, and in spite of being nothing more than a memory, it was great to see a father (even if just the memory of a father) reaching out to his son in that son's time of emotional crisis and be supportive.  I loved that the dialogue was a replay of Han's final scene in TFA, only this time ending with Ben Solo forsaking the dark side and shedding the mask of Kylo Ren, much as Anakin forsook the dark side and shed the mask of Darth Vader in the climax of RotJ.  I did smile at Han getting to be himself by cutting off what was probably going to be some very inelegant blubbering on Ben's part by saying "I know," which has kind of become the franchise's way of saying "I love you too," and it's nice to see what was an ad lib in ESB be used deliberately in such a touching manner.

The giant final space battle was pretty intense, and I can see why some folks felt the arrival of the cavalry felt unearned, but I didn't have that problem.  For me, after mulling the film over in my head for a couple days, while the timing of the Big Damn Fleet might have been a little off, that this around everyone showed up makes sense.  When the Resistance sends out their call for help towards the end of TLJ, the only people the First Order are openly antagonizing is the Resistance, so the rest of the galaxy may well have figured that there wasn't much of a point of picking a fight.  But come the climax of TRoS, when Palpatine has pretty much outed himself as a Sith (i.e. the MAJOR villains of the setting's history) and told everyone either kneel or I kill you, when the call for aid came out, the galaxy knew that if they didn't stand up now, then they'd either be kneeling forever or be dead.  Of course, having it be the suave old smoothie Lando making the call for help probably didn't hurt.

And Lando very much filled the "wise mentor" role not only very well, but in his own way, providing verbal support where needed, especially to Poe during his personal crisis after finding out General Leia was dead.  Speaking of Leia, I thought they handled her scenes very well, even if there were a few instances where it was pretty clear they were using body doubles; makes sense that they'd have to, given the limited footage to work with and Abram's promise to not use a digital double.  It really does sadden me that she passed before this film could be shot, as I can't help but wonder how much larger of a role she would have played in the film.  Finding out that Luke had trained her, to the point where Leia had built her own lightsaber, was a nice reveal, as it showed that he passed on what he had learned, just as Yoda had advised him to do.  While she may not have fully completed her training as a Jedi, it was still nice to see that Leia had at least developed her abilities to the extent that she could serve as a capable teacher for Rey.

One complaint I saw was that the film never really addressed if Finn was Force-sensitive or not, and that if he was then the film didn't do anything with it.  That didn't bother me because RotJ ended much the same way with regards to Leia's revelation of being Force-sensitive, with her only getting one brief moment of using it before the credits rolled.  At various points in the film, Finn gets these "feelings" about things, as well as sensing when Rey died on Exogal, so even if it wasn't stated as such, he at least got to display some minor uses of the Force, which is a touch I liked.

All that said, from the perspective of a GM that has run Star Wars games aplenty in the past, I am intrigued to see where LFL will go from here, and what shape Rey's rebuilt Jedi Order will take.  I did like that she converted the head of her staff into a lightsaber at the very end, just before announcing herself to be a Skywalker in honor of Luke, Leia, and Ben, and that it had a yellow/amber blade, demonstrating that she's not as bound by the ways of the old Jedi as Luke had initially been.  It was also touching to see the Force ghosts of Luke and Leia, being reunited in the netherworld of the Force.  For Rey's first crop of students, I'm guessing Finn will be one of her first students, along with the broom kid from the end of TLJ.  I'd be interesting in seeing or reading about such a story, of her establishing a renewed Jedi Order, this around hopefully free from lazy writers who decide to turn said Jedi school into an easy way to justify having new dark side villains; given how often he had students go rogue in New Republic era of Legends, it's amazing that Luke's Yavin 4 Praxuem wasn't shut down for being a hazard to galactic security.

Overall, I think this was as good a movie to close out not only the sequel trilogy but also the entire Skywalker Saga as could be made.  I do think all three sequel films, but this one especially, were hampered by there not being a roadmap to help guide the filmmakers from the opening scene of TFA to the rolling of credits in TRoS, but I found the films to quite enjoyable, with TFA perhaps being my favorite of the three.  I seriously wanted to love this film, but the first of my major grievances with the film, that of Rey being retcon'd into having a special lineage after all, keeps that from happening.

So while far from being a perfect film (and let's be honest, NONE of the Star Wars films are truly perfect, no matter what nostalgia tells you), it was enjoyable end to a saga that began when I was a wee child, and I do look forward to seeing what's yet to come.  Apart from The Mandalorian which has thus far been fairly good, there's a Kenobi series by Deborah Chow (who directed what I think were some of the best episodes of The Mandalorian bar none), a Rogue One prequel series focusing on Cassian Andor, and apparently a new Star Wars film that's slated for December of 2022, with another new film in the Decembers of 2024 and 2026, though no details have been released about whether this will be a new trilogy or what.

Chris Witt of the Order 66 podcast said it best when he said that right now, it's a good time to be a Star Wars fan.  The franchise may hit stumbling blocks along the way, even as far back as Lucas making the first movie back in the mid 1970's, but it's also a franchise that has endured over the decades, and I think it'll be around for many more decades to come.

November 27, 2019

Of Jedi, Vidoe Games, and Fallen Orders

Greetings programs!

Yeah, been a spell since my last post here.  Mostly that's been due to having been rather busy with real life things (nothing worrisome, just time consuming).

So a little over a week ago, I opted to take the plunge and pick up EA's latest offering, Star Wars: Jedi: Fallen Order.  I'll be honest in that I was largely skeptical about whether I'd enjoy this game or not, given the less than stellar experiences I had with Spider-Man and Kingdom Hearts 3.  Still, I'd been hearing lots of good things being said about this game, both from reviewers and especially from one of my friends whose opinion on video games I generally trust.

And I have to admit that the game is generally pretty fun, being an action-adventure "metroidvania" style game.  Now admittedly I'm playing the game on Story Mode (aka Easy Mode) as at this point in my life I play video games as a means of relaxation and am not looking for a serious/frustrating challenge.  The game's not perfect, as the combat controls feel like there's a bit of lag between button input and result, especially when there's a lot of enemies on the screen.

So that said, I got the inspiration to work up some stats and such of people and things that appeared in the game.

Cal Kestis, Jedi Fugitive (as of Escape from Bracca)
The protagonist of Jedi: Fallen Order, young Cal is a survivor of the purge that was Order 66, and has spent the five years since that fateful day hiding on the planet Bracca, where he works as a scrapper alongside his Abednado co-worker and friend Prauf.  Circumstances arise that causes Cal to reveal his Force abilities and subsequently coming to the attention of the dreaded Imperial Inquisitors.

I built Cal using the Jedi career and Padawan specialization from the Rise of the Separatists supplement, as it not only fit his background, but also allowed me to get him up to Force Rating 2 rather inexpensively and thus acquire the Bind power, which is what I'm using to represent his Force Statis ability both to slow down enemies but also to briefly freeze various obstacles to allow him to progress.  I also gave him the benefit of the Mentor shared background resource from Force & Destiny to account for the his proper training prior to the events of Order 66.

Psychometry (New Force Power)
So this was a Force power I had originally taken a crack at years ago as part of my old Ways of the Force fan supplement.  At the time, the only example of a Force user that was skilled with this ability was Quinlan Vos, but now that we have Cal demonstrating the power, I've got a somewhat better handle on what the power can accomplish.  It's fair to warn GMs that this Force power very much has the ability to unravel adventure plots that center on discovering things, so that end many of the upgrades for this power are expensive to purchase.

Kudos also to FFG forum user Nytwing, whose on take on Psychometry helped inform a fair bit the above.  You can read his take on the power on his website here.

BD Unit Droid
Serving as Cal's companion through much of the game, BD-1 is the game's exposition fairy, and has been likened to an intelligent puppy in terms of how he acts.  The stat block presented here presents more of a "factory model" version of the droid.
Cost/Rarity: 4500 credits/6

While the species was introduced in The Force Awakens, I thought it'd be fitting to include my take on a species write-up given that the character of Prauf plays a pivotal role in pushing Cal to undertake the grand quest that is the game's focus and for the young man to embrace his destiny as a Jedi.  I did use the character sheet for the Abednado Colonist Bormo from FFG's The Force Awakens Beginner Box set to help inform my choices on how to design this species.  It of course goes without saying that FFG ever does an official write-up of the Abednado, it's going to look rather different than what I'm posting here.

Starting Characteristics
Brawn 2, Agility 2, Intellect 3, Cunning 1, Willpower 2, Presence 2
Wound Threshold: 9+Brawn
Strain Threshold: 12+Willpower
Starting XP: 90
Species Abilities: Abednado being with one free rank in Resilience.  They still may not train Resilience above Rank 2 at character creation.
Gregarious: Due to their affable and friendly nature, Abednado characters add an Advantage to the results of all Charm and Negotiation checks the character makes.

S-161 "Stinger" XL Luxury Yacht
The game's principle method of getting Cal and company from planet to planet on their quest, the Mantis is fairly sleek ship design.  There's not a whole lot to go on apart from the comments of Greeze, the ship's captain and pilot, about how the Mantis is fast but not much good in a fight.

We don't get to explore much of the ship in the game, but I feel safe in presuming that there's more interior space than what is shown, enough to warrant putting this vessel in the Silhouette 4 category and with a decent amount of space for passengers and cargo.  I also decided to price the vessel as something that an Edge of the Empire group could begin play with, though it is out of the initial reach of a Force and Destiny group.

You can find PDFs of most of the above (everything save the write-up for the Abednado) in a zip file located here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/696xqpegf7c2eut/Jedi%20Fallen%20Order%20files.zip?dl=0

Hopefully you've enjoyed reading this, and may even find use for some or even all of this material in your own games.

So until next time, remember.... persistence reveals the path, and trust in the Force.

August 25, 2019

And the Road Goes Ever On...

Well, it's certainly been longer between updates than I'd originally planned.  Most of that was due to distractions of other things, mostly gaming and work in about that order.

So firstly, another birthday has come and gone, leaving me a little bit older and hopefully a little wiser than I was.  In spite of some annoying incompetence on the part of the Arkansas Postal Service, I did at last get the last of my birthday presents from Clan Whitson, including a cool geek t-shirt and some yummy home-baked chocolate chip cookies.

In terms of gaming, in spite of some unexpected shake-ups in the routine, I've been fairly active on that front.  A Star Wars campaign using FFG's system in which I played a youngish minor Jedi (Sentinel/Shien Expert/Padawan) named Colwyn Morningfire just recently wrapped up; with the GM saying it might be possible that we'll return to that group of characters at some later point, but that he wanted to run a different system and style of campaign for a little while.

In lieu of that Star Wars campaign, the GM started off a campaign using Cubicle 7's Adventures in Middle-Earth, which is there d20 version of their award-winning The One Ring game, set several years after the events taking place in The Hobbit.  We're starting out as 3rd level characters, and have a notable lack of Elves or Dwarves amidst our company, and with having 32 points to use to purchase our ability scores, each of us is generally pretty competent in our areas of respective expertise.

The GM has already said he's not running the game as being entirely "rules pure" and has adapted a couple elements from D&D 5e for the characters.  The first of these was importing the Inquisitive archetype from Xanathar's Guide to Everything for our Hobbit Treasure Seeker (C7's slightly reworked Rogue class) as neither of the existing AiME archetypes (Agent and Burgler) really seemed to fit the character concept she had in mind.  So we now have a Hobbit who's quite cheerful in spite being so far from the Shire, overly curious about most everything, and having the common sense of a Took; nobody's called her a "Fool of a Took!" but that may just be a matter of time.  She is however very good at Riddles, something she proved in the first session by getting into Middle-Earth's version of an impromptu rap battle by engaging in a riddle-contest with a bunch of bar patrons and trouncing the handily; likely helped that the player has researched and typed up a bunch of riddles to have on hand to recite.

The other house-ruled bit in this game is our Woodwoman Scholar has the ability to use actual D&D-style magic, having used her starting virtue/feat and 3rd level class archetype feature to gain a limited number of spells, most of which are cantrips with a single first level spell.  Narratively, her background is that she was taken in as a sort-of apprentice by Radagast the Brown (she really enjoyed Sylvester McCoy's portrayal in the Hobbit films, and felt having Gandalf as her mentor would have been too cliche).  Helpfully, Cubicle 7 listed a number of 5e OGL spells that fit the general themes of Middle-Earth, from which the character made her selections, most of them being various utility spells, with only one spell (Produce Flame) having offensive capabilities, and even then it's not that great.  The player (who is the youngest of the group) seems pretty content with what she's got for magic, and even with her primary experience of the setting being the Peter Jackson films grasps that D&D style spellcasters are not a thing in this setting, and that magical effects are far more limited, so not sure if she's going to try to finagle more spells or not.

Another imported D&D 5e elements for this group is a reworking of the Totem Warrior Path for our Beorning Slayer, with the spell-based abilities removed and a couple other abilities tweaked.  He's already stated that he intends to go full-on Bear Totem.

The last imported element being the GM having tossed out the Known Lands feature the Wanderer class (C7's reworking of the Ranger to remove all spell-casting) and replacing it with a slightly modified version of the Natural Explorer feature from the Revised Ranger presented in WotC's Unearthed Arcana series, done mostly so that he's got more freedom to send our party into various parts of the Wilderlands without having to worry about my Dunedain Wanderer's key class feature being of limited use, especially as we have a mage who has a bevy of at-will cantrips to her name. Though we've started out in Lake-Town, having come there separately for different reasons, I have a feeling the GM's going to have us be traipsing all about the Wilderlands during the course of our various adventures, so I admit it'll be nice to not have to worry about is the journey taking us through my character's Known Lands.  The bonuses provided aren't quite as nice, having lost the "double your proficiency bonus for Intelligence and Wisdom checks when dealing with a known land" and not getting some of the revised Natural Explorer's other abilities right away, I think it works out, trading overall potency for increased utility.  We're still fine-tuning, so I won't be posting what the current state of this revised-revised Natural Explorer is at the moment.

So far, it does seem like quite a fun group, having a Barding Warden with the Fallen Scion background having a bit of a casanova vibe and aspirations of being The Hero of the group, much to our Woodwoman Scholar's great dismay, while the Beorning Slayer and Hobbit Treasure Seeker are fast becoming the group's comedic duo.  My Dunedain Wanderer hasn't quite found his niche within the company's social dynamics, but we've only had one session so I'm sure he'll find his place soon enough.,

Sadly, the Saturday Discord group that I'm in had a disruption due to our GM struggling with various real-life concerns, leaving our Mutants & Masterminds 3e Emerald City campaign in a bit of a lurch.  Luckily, thanks the above AiME campaign, I got the notion to run an adventure using that game for the group while our GM briefly stepped down to sort a few things out.  It helped that we're all pretty familiar with the 5e rules, so we wouldn't have to try and learn a radically different new system for what was likely to be a one-off.  And so, with a company consisting of a Dwarf Fallen Scion Warrior, a Barding Harrowed Warden, a Hobbit World Weary Scholar, and a Woodwoman Lured by the Road Wanderer, I ran them through the Eaves of Mirkwood.  A couple players remarked on the oddity of playing actual first-level characters, but everyone had fun and enjoyed themselves.  Unlike a typical D&D adventure, there wasn't very much combat except towards the very end, and I think the "encounter" that the players had the most fun with was sitting and conversing with a trio of traveling dwarves over a meal of roast pig and fine mead, getting into a riddle contest and a contest of blowing smoke rings, the later of which our Hobbit sadly lost in spite of a great effort of going for a big finish.

One major change I did for the adventure was to frame it as a tale being told by Gandalf to a group of Hobbit children, with the introduction being Gandalf agreeing to tell the children a story (he was in an unusually chipper mood that late spring afternoon), which also let me set the stage for the players as to where and when they were in the timeline of Middle-Earth (five years after the Battle of Five Armies, and on the western reaches of Mirkwood).  I had thought about using Bilbo to tell the story, but decided to use Gandalf instead as I've always liked the Grey Wizard, cranky as he might get at times.  And after the adventure as written had concluded, I went back to having Gandalf conclude the tale and shoo the various Hobbit children away, with one of them hanging around just a bit longer to ask the old Wizard if indeed there were more stories of this company of adventurers, to which Gandalf told a very young Frodo Baggins that there were indeed, but those were stories for another time.  The players very much loved the use of the framing device of their adventure being a story told by one of The Wise, giving them a greater sense of accomplishment and tie to the world of Middle-Earth.  I can only hope that any further adventures I run for them are met with equal enthusiasm and appreciation, given that until this adventure, I'd had an abysmal track record when trying to run any sort of D&D game (most efforts crashed and burned by the third session at the latest, and several attempts during my 20's didn't even make it through the first session), so it was nice to have a D&D game (modified though the system was) be both successful and appreciated by the players.

I also have to say that I really like the Journey mechanics that Cubicle 7 imported from The One Ring.  It removes a lot of the "need to roll for random encounters" and the chart for Journey Events gives the GM a number of options to either roll for or choose from beyond "you run into a bunch of monsters, what do you do?"  I can see why a lot of GMs have decided to import the Journey rules into their regular D&D campaigns.

Well, that's about what's been going on of late for me.  I've got a notion for a smaller Star Wars RPG post, but that will probably wait for next weekend.