Monday, 26 November 2012

FFG Star Wars - Play Impressions

So yesterday a few of us had the chance to play both Star Wars: X-Wing and Star Wars: Edge of the Empire. Here's my/our first impressions:

Originally we were going run Edge of the Empire in the early afternoon, but one of player's couldn't attend due to an emergency and another couldn't show up till later. So myself and the two other players who showed up decided after creating characters we'd try out the X-Wing miniatures game our absentee player had lent me.

I quickly threw together a quick 50-point squad consisting of a pair of Red Squadron X-Wings, one equipped with Proton Torpedoes, versus a single Tempest Squadron TIE Advanced equipped with Concussion Missiles with an Obsidian Squadron TIE/ln and an Academy Pilot TIE/ln as wingmen.

Mike and Hayden both took control of an X-wing and I handled the Imperials. We began play and soon acquired a decent grasp of the game's mechanics, and soon enough we were jockeying for a position and trying to out guess each others' manoeuvres. The two sides seemed balanced quite well; the weak but fast and agile TIEs against the heavier armed and shielded X-Wings. The game designers we able to keep the quantity vs. quality methodology that pervades Imperial and Rebel starship design respectively. Gameplay is fun and rather quick, and I always found the battle interesting. The Imps managed to take down Mike's X-Wing before my TIE Advance became space dust. The Obsidian Squadron TIE had several lucky shots on the Rebels whilst the Academy Pilot was more of distraction until the very end when it scored the winning hit on Hayden's X-Wing. Looks like he'll graduate from the Imperial Academy with honours! That said it still felt like the combat came down to the wire.

Later that night after our Edge of the Empire session, two us decided to pit Darth Vader's TIE Advanced X1 against the TIE/ln's Winged Gundark and Night Beast. Let's just say TIE vs. TIE doesn't work well because you can never hit each other because everyone's firepower is too low and their agility is too high. We decided to end in a stalemate.

All in all I must say X-Wing met my expectations after a single game. I quite enjoy how it best captures dogfighting on a 2D plane, and the squad building aspect with ship upgrades and unique pilots adds diversity and a neat tactile squad-building component to the game, increasing it's playability. This set my buddy lent me contains the core-set and every ship expansion to date minus the Y-Wing. He says he's not really happy with the game, and I didn't really notice his gripes with it when I played, but then again he's played it much more than I have and also he's the guy who shelled out all the money for it. (It is quite expensive.) But for me at this point, if he's looking to part with it, I think I'm more than willing to buy it off of him if he offers. Also early next year FFG's releasing four more ship expansions: The Millennium Falcon, Slave I, A-Wing, and TIE Interceptor. More possibilities!

Ultimately I'd really like to try out a few more games before I make a choice on purchasing it.

Success - Failure.
Advantage - Threat.
Triumph - Despair.
Light Side - Dark Side.
Once our third player had joined us near the end of our X-Wing game and we went out for a bite to eat, we sat down and began our playtest of Edge of the Empire. I decided to run the Crate of Krayts adventure that was provided in the back of the Beta. The adventure starts off with a combat encounter very soon (to test those mechanics I suppose), so the majority of the session the PC's were fighting. It was a little rocky to say the least; both teaching and learning a new system, stopping to reference rules, trying to shift from Saga's tactical mindset to a more abstract thematic mindset, dealing with a dynamic initiative and range bands, etc. Aside from those pitfalls I think the overall impression was positive. Afterwards there was a good amount of discussion and feedback, some of which I may compile and submit to FFG, though I have seen that some of it has already been covered on their forums.

I also realized that I missed out on a great deal of rules I could have applied, which could have been prevented if I had planned a bit more and made some sort of reference sheet instead of having to flip back and forth through the book. That was my mistake because I'm so used to running systems I'm familiar with fast-and-loose, which doesn't really work when you want to actually test mechanics.

So for next session I have rectified this by finding and printing out FFG forum member gribble's reference sheets. This guy's done a great job compiling Critical Cards, Complete Reference, Combat Reference, and Talent Tree Reference sheets. Also I was attempting to use minis for tracking initiative and range bands, but it didn't work out exactly as I planned and might've made things a little more complicated. I'm going to see if I can adjust this better.

All in all, I'm looking forward to next Sunday when we'll pickup where we left off in Edge of the Empire. I'm thinking things should go a bit smoother now that we've played the game and have better access to the rules via the reference sheets.

Saturday, 17 November 2012


Last Wednesday's session, our Ravenloft adventurers had a chilling awakening their following morning: They discovered the body of Hilda, the village healer who prepared and administered a tincture belladonna to Thain-el and Ellywick yesterday to stave off any possibly lycanthropy affection they may have contracted from wounds they received from battle with the werewolves. Thain was able to resist the belladonnas natural toxins, but Ellywick collapsed under its effects. Having lost all her strength, she had remained in Hilda's care for the night.

When they called on the two the next day, they found Hilda lying on the floor of her house in a pool of her own blood, her entrails savagely torn out. Of Ellywick they saw no sign, but dread filled their hearts at the likelihood that their companion had succumbed to lycanthropy and brutally slew the one looking after her.

They were fortunate to discover a note written by whom caused this foul act, before they could jump to any grim conclusions:

This only brings up more questions for our heroes:

Who is the note's writer, -A?
Why did he slay Hilda?
Who was his brother and who killed him?

Most importantly: How are they going to rescue Ellywick?

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Interesting Times, Interesting Places

It seems recently I have become the recipient of the Chinese proverb: May you live in interesting times.

Last week I talked about being the victim of theft, and it sucks to say it has once again happened to me this week. When I went to leave for work Wednesday morning, I discovered someone had made off with the front tire and seat post of my bicycle, whist it was still locked up on my front porch. As you can imagine, being the victim of theft two weeks in a row put me in a very sour mood.

Again hindsight is 20-20, but it doesn't help change the fact that my bike is now useless (though it's not a big concern given the season and weather.) If I save up cash and buy the parts, I should have it up and running like new come spring.

Anyway, on to other (better) interesting things:

First of all I'd like to give a shout out to the redditor who came across my 'Prolonging Death' article and posted in the D&D subreddit. People really seemed to like that houserule I came up with; that's the most traffic I've had on my blog so far, perhaps even surpassing last year's total visits. Thanks again for the exposure!

A few days ago I was talking to a buddy of mine about the Star Wars: Edge of the Empire Beta, and he was able to track down copies of the Beta book for each of us through his connections with gamers up island! I should have it in my hands Wednesday. As you can imagine from my previous post, I'm quite excited to play this game. I'm also currently reading through the books of the The Lando Calrissian Adventures trilogy that I got back in September, and getting ideas in my head for running a few Edge of the Empire sessions in the Centrality, a funny little offbeat region of the galaxy perfect for fringe types. Given what I've heard on the free-form narrative nature of the game, I think I don't need many actual rules to make the quirky Centran differences work in the game.

As for actual game resources for the Centrality, I've found a few:
  1. Back in the day, West End Games was going to publish The Lando Calrissian Adventures Sourcebook for their d6 Star Wars RPG, but the project was cancelled. 
  2. Back in issue #5 of WotC's Star Wars Gamer, they published A Campaign Guide to the Centrality; if you're not lucky enough to own a copy of this issue, you might be able to find it online as a PDF.
  3. Finally, WotC's Star Wars Saga forum alumni and Lando fan, Rob Shanti, created his own sourcebook: The Centrality: A Gazetteer and Guide. Even though it's for Saga Edition, I highly recommend you grab the PDF of it if you're at all interested in the Centrality.
  4. Good ol' Wookiepedia. :p

Pew Pew Pew
My interest has also grown in Fantasy Flight's Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game. Finally, a good Star Wars starship miniatures combat system. (Star Wars Miniatures: Starship Battles was a colossal flop.) I'm not a huge strategy game player, but this game just looks too fun to pass up. Even though Edge of the Empire sounds like it has a good cinematic vehicle/starship combat system (unlike the various WotC and WEG incarnations that GMs and players alike avoided), it sounds like one could incorporate X-Wing into their EotE or SWSE games for a more tactical/tactile starship combat. Especially once Age of Rebellion come out; anyone else have the idea of the PC's taking on roles the of a hybrid starfighter/commando unit a la Wraith Squadron? I'm sure that character stats from the RPG could be roughly translated to the pilot stats from the minis game to make a functional mash-up.  This is something I shall perhaps have to investigate further...

Finally, SWTOR is launching it's free-to-play model this Thursday, so I'll probably be playing that on and off for a bit.

Now on to other news.

Feb 1st - 3rd
I've thrown my hat into the ring to GM a game or two at GottaCon come February. The RPG coordinator is starting to get the gaming schedule together, but I've yet to decide on which slot(s) I'm going to be in and even what I'm going to run! I want to run a system that got little to no exposure last convention, so I have a couple ideas:

  • Mouse Guard - I think Mouse Guard is a great system that's pretty easy to learn, so it'd be perfect for both newbies and people who've played the game before.
  • Paranoia: Troubleshooters - In Paranoia, even if you've played it before, you're not expected to have any knowledge of the rules, because that means your a commie-mutant-traitor and punishable by death! (At least for your character.) The rules are completely the GM's domain but entirely flexible/optional, which leaves the players to do whatever they want to do; namely be entertaining. Death isn't really a punishment given your character has multiple clones. Sounds like a perfect convention game of hilarious dystopian slapstick for both veterans and newbies. I don't have a physical copy, but my friend might lend me his.
  • Airship Pirates - This might appeal more to the Steampunk crowd. I've run the in-book adventure a few times with pre-generated characters, so I could do that again. I'd like to grab a bunch of pirate minis and a few airships for this one to make it fancy. I might reserve running this one till the next Victoria Steam Expo.
  • Dread - A very niche choice, this storytelling-jenga game. I might use an amnesia concept I'm developing for his one.
  • Spirit of the Century - I want the FATE system to be represented at GottaCon this year, so I'm thinking about this game. There's a couple sample adventures in the book and a couple of pre-generated characters I could use. My friend Jason, might be running Dresden Files, and if so that would satisfy my need for FATE representation and might allow me to run something else.
  • Star Wars: Edge of the Empire - If I get a change to play the Beta a couple of times, get a good grasp of the system, and write a basic adventure up, I might run it at the con to give anyone curious a chance to see what it's about. The full game isn't supposed to come out till Spring, so running the Beta in February might generate some interest. Though this could be complicated given the fact the Beta rulebook is being updated every couple weeks.
It'll remain to be seen which game(s) I decide on.

Until next time! ;{١

Monday, 5 November 2012

A New Hope?

All his life as he looked away to the future, to the horizon...

I'm sure you all know by now of Disney buying Lucasfilm, and the news of Episode VII in 2015, so I need not go much into it. At first I was shocked and a little dismayed, but then after thinking about it I think it's good thing, after all Disney's been treating the studios they've acquired pretty well, given how well Marvel Studios are doing with that franchise. I'm still worried about this new trilogy though, given how disappointing the prequels were and that so much awesome Expanded Universe material might get re-conned, or outright trashed.

I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Anyway, back at GenCon last August, Fantasy Flight Games announced not only their new Star Wars RPG line, but released a Beta test version of it that day. Several months since then I've had time to read [this too] and listen [here too] to all the hubbub on the trial. And I must say, since I can no longer get my hands on the Beta, I'm anxious for when the testing & balancing finishes and the rulebook and/or beginner game it hit the shelves of my FLGS. It sounds like they've introduced a lot of elements into the game that have made it more cinematic, and there's a lot of great concepts I like the sound of. One being the non-binary dice pools where a successful roll could land you under threat or if you fail at your original goal you may still gain an advantage. Another are all the career trees available for a wide range of character customizing.

Custom Dice?
First I was like Boo, but now I'm like Ooo...
The other big thing: Obligation. Something I always felt in my Saga games was a lack of inherent mechanical drive in the Fringe characters' backgrounds; players would kind of play them like D&D adventurers: get in fights and get rich. It seemed no matter what ideas I'd suggest or situations they'd get themselves into, it wouldn't really matter to the devil-may-care-soldiers-of-fortune-for-hire-with-no-past; which is funny because that's what you pretty much play in Edge of the Empire, but they solved it by giving everyone Obligations, built in plot hooks! Sure, Han Solo did whatever he wanted when he wanted but that death mark on his head eventually caught up with him, causing a whole mess of trouble for him and those who associated with him.

Now, I love Saga Edition, it's by far my favourite incarnation of the d20 system. I was rather disheartened when I heard that they were stopping the line and dropping the license. I was concerned a bit when I heard FFG had acquired it and it was going to be kinda set up like their Warhammer 40k RPG license (I didn't want my Star Wars to go all grimdark). But I always knew I was going to pick up at least the core rulebook of the new SWRPG, because I'm a huge fanboy and I love roleplaying games. (Heck, I'm still trying to get my hands on the old West End Games stuff but I haven't seen it anywhere.)

And now I'm so excited about the prospect of this new game, I can't wait till it comes out. And before I catch myself, I pretty sure this isn't the same kind of anticipation like waiting for a video game *coughTORcough* and winding up disappointed. What I love about RPGs over video games, is if you're disappointed with a video game, you can't do anything to change it; but with an RPG you can do anything or everything to change it, to make it more enjoyable.

I love trying out new systems, new ways to play games and tell stories, but in the end it isn't the system that really matters. Sure I have my preferences we all do, but like to think I can enjoy any game because the only thing I really need is my imagination.

Wow, that got corny quick...

May The Force Be With You! ;{١

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Prolonging Death - Houserule

Character death in many combat-heavy RPGs can be inevitable. PC death at lower levels and/or in a world where you lack access to Raise Dead, Resurrection, True Resurrection, and other related spells can mean time bonding with your character is cut short. I wanted to come up with a way to allow characters to continue living and questing, without resorting to the uninspired 'if you reach 0 or less hit points, you just go unconscious until you are healed' (a.k.a your character can't die).

The Reaper comes to collect souls
Time to roll up new characters

I originally came up with this idea for old-school or brutal D&D games where PC death is common and unforgiving, where one cannot avoid death by simply spending some form of resource points to prevent it. (Not that I'm saying that's not how it should be in such games.) I wanted players to have the option for their characters to stave off death, but still be penalized some way for (almost) dying. Thus I came up with this concept for one of my games: a Pact With Death

The gist of this optional rule is that players' characters, generally being exceptional individuals to begin with, have the option to prevent character death by offering whatever comes to collect their soul (further referred to in the remainder of this post as the Emissary of Death) something in exchange for their mortality: cutting their lifespan shorter in return for not dying. Burning the candle that is their life at both ends as it were. Death is still going to collect their soul sooner or later, this option makes it later rather than sooner for the character.

The way the rule functions is both thematically and mechanically:

Pact with Death
With the character's dying breath, an Emissary of Death appears to collect their soul. This psychopomp might take the form of a creature or entity of the PC's faith, perhaps an animal or beast of nature, or a common personification such as the Grim Reaper.

The character strikes a deal with this Emissary of Death. In exchange for staving off the end, they offer their age and youth as means to temporarily prolong their fate. A sample roleplay exchange follows:
"After agreeing with your bargain, Death scrapes the edge of his scythe along the length of the glowing thread representing your life, collecting the cast off fibres in the hourglass of your mortality."
This act advances the PC's age by numerous years, advancing it to at least the middle of its next age category, if your game has specific rules for age categories; or by a fifth of the average lifespan of PC's race/species. (Example: Young Adult to Adult, Adult to Middle Age, Middle Age to Old, or Old to Venerable/Ancient; or [+17] from 19 years old to 36 years from an average lifespan of 85 years.)
This pact may be repeatedly taken upon dying/death but not when Venerable/Ancient age has been reached (or after surpassing the average lifespan for the race/species), or upon dying from natural causes as there is little left they have to offer.
Upon making this pact, the character returns to life conscious at 0 hit points. The whole ordeal is generally very painful and traumatizing. (Option: If you are playing a game with any sort of Taint, Corruption, Sanity, or similar mechanic the character may gain (or lose in the case of Sanity and such) one or more points in that area. GM's discretion.) 
Over a period of several days to a week the character rapidly ages from their current age to the middle of their next age category, receiving appropriate ability increases and decreases from reaching the next age category. (Or if the game lacks age categories and associated rules: the character ages a fifth of the average lifespan of their race/species and decreases one or more of his ability attributes by 1 or more. Again, GM's discretion.)

Let's make a deal...

Other notes:
This rule only applies to a character that is a living creature that naturally ages, and is unconscious and dying or recently deceased with a relatively intact body.

Normally in an alignment-restrictive game world like D&D, most Good-aligned and/or Lawfully-aligned deities wouldn't allow their faithful to barter their souls in such a way, though exceptions could be made:

  • Righteous PC's must fulfil a task on behalf of their deity and thus are permitted to prolong their fate.
  • Perhaps the Emissary of Death that works between all deities is neutral and willing to entertain such deals, although a PC's acceptance to such a deal may cause a shift in alignment.
  • Certain malicious entities might take the place of a PC's usual psychopomp for their own nefarious purposes.

All of this makes for some great potential roleplaying I think. I tried to make the rule option system-neutral and flexible enough to work in a variety of fantasy RPGs.

Comments welcome and appreciated!

Friday, 2 November 2012

Mishaps & Moustaches

Howdy everyone, nothing fancy today just some minor updates on my life.

First off, Happy Hallowe'en to everyone! I hope you all had tons of treats and very few tricks. Wednesday would have been our regular Ravenloft session but we didn't end up playing it because I need to rewrite a bunch of my notes (more on that in a bit), so we ended up giving Fiasco a whirl instead. As I mentioned a few posts back, we've been interested in playing Fiasco and last weekend a FLGS had ordered it back in, so I picked up a copy for my buddy as a thank you gift for getting the Missus and I tickets to see a MacBeth opera.

Our play-through was a little rough considering neither my buddy nor I read the book from start to finish, but we had a fun time running the McMurdo Sound playset from the book nonetheless. Probably one of the strangest object I've ever encountered in a game: a 55-gallon urine barrel. Whaaaat.

Dread would've probably been more appropriate for Hallowe'en, but I have yet to get a tower for it, which is kinda pivotal for play.

The other game option that we chose Fiasco over was 44: A Game Of Automatic Fear by Stories You Play. The basic premise of 44 is it's the early 50's and each character knows someone close to them who has been replaced by a robotic replica. Together the characters fight agents that seek to convert them and survive the overall conspiracy as the turns countdown to zero hour. Think along the lines of the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Aside from being a great little FREE game that only clocks in at 36 pages, it's unique in that when a character falls to the robotic menace, he joins the conspiracy with the GM in opposition against the remaining players. I can imagine things can get pretty tense near the end. Sounds fun, can't wait to give it a shot.

Last Tuesday I had a lousy misfortune befall me: Whilst on shift, someone snuck into the staff change area, pried the locks off a bunch of lockers including my own, and made off with my wallet and my iPad. I found this horribly ironic given I only brought my iPad with me to kill time before my appointment to fix my ribs (I seem to have jostled my ribs from my sternum when I was in the moshpit a few weeks ago seeing Unleash The Archers). And now without my wallet that has both my funds and medical information, I could not go to said appointment.

Being the victim of theft can leave one feeling violated and the last couple days I was in a rather foul mood, but the game on Wednesday night cheered me up and I'm feeling better. It couldn't been prevented and I've decided to move on and get over it. My biggest concern is not the act itself, but the potential identity theft that could occur. The iPad was locked with a passcode, and I've alerted appropriate authorities on the theft of certain cards, but still there's that lingering concern. Realistically, this thief isn't a master criminal; he's not going to go through the effort hack my tablet for access to my PDFs, gaming notes, or my music. I seriously have nothing critical on it. He's just going to pawn or trade it for a few bucks. He'll get his just desserts sooner or later.

We had a Hallowe'en party here at the Manor on Saturday, which was a blast. And the following morning we went out for yummy breakfast, checked out a flea-market, then went to a photoshoot for local barber promoting Movember. Our photos went up on the first, check mine out:

Photo courtesy of Victory Barber & Brand

I'm really happy with the result. It helped me further shake off these blues. I can't wait till I get the unaltered prints.

Cheers! ;{١