Looking for VFF Publishing?

What’s VFF Publishing, you ask? Why, it’s my publishing imprint! Yes, I write and publish novels. This blog is about gaming, but I see no reason not to redirect you to the Visions of Fantasy & the Future site if you’re curious about what I write. I write fantasy and sci-fi. You can buy my novels at Amazon and other fine sellers of literature.

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Star Wars: Edge of the Empire – The Jewel of Yavin, part 2

This entry is written from the point-of-view of my new Edge of the Empire character, a Duros politico named Baniss Mulk (may Kelko Gen R.I.P.). It will have spoilers for Fantasy Flight Game’s adventure The Jewel of Yavin. You’ve been warned!

SWEotE logo

Duros malePersonal Journal – Day 6809 of Exile
While most of the mammals went drinking under the pretenses of gathering information, I set about disguising our racing vehicle. It wouldn’t do to enter a cloud car into the race adorned in the colors of Cloud City’s Wing Guard. I finished my task and returned to our suite. Dr. J had spent some time casing the museum while Herrick and Xena were out drinking, so the night wasn’t a total loss. Of course, if Herrick and Xena actually learned anything from their “investigation” it was going to have to wait until morning, as they were barely coherent by the time they returned.

Fortunately, they did glean some information we could use about some of the other racers. Apparently, one particularly unpleasant fellow makes a habit of shooting other racers to remove them from competition, and is skilled enough that he doesn’t get disqualified himself doing it. I thought we should try to manipulate him into gunning for our competitors, but I don’t think anyone was paying attention to me. They did like the paint job I gave our cloud car, though. Unfortunately, they ripped it apart to remove the armor plating to reduce the weight. At least they didn’t scuff up the paint too badly.

Xena told us about banking droids that she saw, which changed our idea of what the bank job portion of our task was going to be. Dealing with a droid would be easier than breaking into a physical location; much less chance of getting shot, I should think. I made a mental note to go to Bespin Buy and pick up a restraining bolt. Meanwhile, we all paid a visit to the museum. The security cameras were well-hidden enough that none of us spotted any. I found that idea ludicrous to say the least. The Guide Droids in the museum were of great help, as long as we acted like tourists. The instant we tried to get more specific information from them that had nothing to do with the exhibits, they became annoying and unhelpful. I did find out the museum had changed hands since it’s original construction, so I paid a visit to the bowels of the city and the ugnaught-run Construction Guild.

After a bit of haggling, I acquired a complete schematic of the museum from the Construction Guild. Apparently, the ugnaughts have no particular loyalty to the tall folk who run the upper levels, but even still, it required lubricating his palms with most of the remainder of my money. We could now plan our post-auction nocturnal excursion to the museum with competence! Xena wanted to try a test run of hacking into the city’s central computer, and lacking an astromech, the only way to do that was to find a connected terminal. Unfortunately, since publicly accessible terminals were unsuited for this task, that meant trying to access one in a governmental building. We discovered these are under extremely tight security.

Regrouping as the day drew to a close, we went over what our tasks were:

  1. Win the Grand Prix
  2. Go to the Gala/Auction
  3. Bank Job to retrieve the credit bid on the jewel
  4. Museum Job to retrieve the jewel itself
  5. Escape
  6. Profit!

With a sinking feeling, we all looked at each other and realized we ALL had a very bad feeling about this.

Some of our dice rolls didn’t fill us with confidence. Fortunately, the odds of dying horribly, eaten by jungle monsters, was much lower this time, but the risk of failure was just as great. It also seemed that the majority of the tasks we needed to do rested on the shoulders of one person: our slicer who also happened to be the most proficient atmospheric pilot (played by my wife). She’s really feeling the stress of carrying the whole plan on her shoulders. I’m not as stressed about it as she is, since she’s consistently rolled best out of all of us. Still, having all our eggs in one basket like that does worry us. I guess we’re going to have to do what we can to aid each other over the next two sessions.

I’m still sold on the game system itself. It’s a nice blend of dice-crunchy and narrative, and while I wouldn’t say it’s rules-light, it does hit a nice balance. The dice themselves take less than an hour to get used to and the more you play the game the faster the task resolution takes. I’ve heard some complaints that it’s too fiddly and there’s too much micromanagement of equipment, particularly weapons, and space combat is  terrible. All I can say is, so far, none of that has been an issue for my group. Maybe that’s our skilled GM making up for shortcomings in the system, or maybe it’s just our play style.

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Star Wars: Edge of the Empire – The Jewel of Yavin, part 1

This entry is written from the point-of-view of my new Edge of the Empire character, a Duros politico named Baniss Mulk (may Kelko Gen R.I.P.). It will have spoilers for Fantasy Flight Game’s adventure The Jewel of Yavin. You’ve been warned!

SWEotE logo

Duros malePersonal Journal – Day 6808 of Exile
After a dull, dull flight, we have arrived at Cloud City on Bespin. I still marvel at the circumstances that led me to become aligned with this motley crew. I was unable to learn much about the Chiss, Herrick, except that “Herrick” is not his full name. The pink-skinned human, Xena is a little more open, but still a mammal, as is the twi’lek doctor, whom I shall refer to as Dr. J. None of them seem particularly interested in helping me restore my people to Duros and righting the wrongs the Empire has perpetrated there, but at least the reason we are on Bespin may serve to further my goals. We have learned of an opportunity here to acquire an item of great value: a gemstone known as the Jewel of Yavin. It will be a righteous caper, an old-fashioned heist, if you will, but the end result will serve the greater good.

I hope.

Aris Shen was our contact, the daughter of our benefactor, Arend Shen. We were to meet her in the market just past our landing bay in Port Town. Finding Aris in the crowd was easy enough, so easy, in fact, that several long coat-wearing, begoggled thugs also found her. It seemed ill-advised to let them apprehend her before we found out the details of this job for which we were hired, so we intervened after agreeing upon a rendezvous point. Naturally, the Chiss couldn’t keep it (his blaster) in his pants and took a potshot at one of the thugs. I didn’t want the Wing Guard to come down on us, so I made a scene. I grabbed one of the thugs, screaming bloody murder. Chaos gripped the marketplace and Aris got away as we distracted the thugs.

We finally got to the rendezvous point and Aris took us to her father, where he laid out his plan for us: We were to infiltrate the upcoming auction, drive up the selling price, then after the auction, steal both the Jewel of Yavin and the money. We were given a list of people we could manipulate into getting into bidding wars with each other, and introduced to another part of the plan. In order to be allowed into the auction in the first place, we were going to have to become semi-famous or at least flash-in-the-pan famous. We were going to accomplish that by entering and winning the Grand Prix. Fortunately, a Storm IV twin-pod cloud car would be provided for us. 1000px-Cloud_Car_NEGVV

The Grand Prix took place shortly before the auction, so we had a day to gather information and figure out how to manipulate the other players. Hopefully, the mammals can keep up their end. Scheming is much easier without sweat glands and other pesky mammalian autonomic anatomical responses.

Not much else to say about the system. We built new characters for The Jewel of Yavin right after the demise of the characters we used in Beyond the Rim. Hopefully, they’re more suited for the adventure. Our GM indicates he thinks we can wrap up this adventure in two more sessions. I hope our dice don’t betray us the way they did at the end of Beyond the Rim.

Once this adventure is done, I’m taking back the reigns and running games again. It is likely the choice will be D&D 5th edition, as it is the new shiny and everyone wants to take it for a spin after the positive experience we had with the Basic Rules. I’m considering running Tyranny of Dragons, though adapting a Pathfinder adventure path is also on the table.

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Gen Con Tips & Advice

Gen Con logoGen Con is nigh! With less than two weeks to go before the best four days in gaming (as of the time I’m posting this), I’m not going to rehash what so many others have put out there, here are some links.

Sean K. Reynolds (of Paizo) says…
Gnome Stew (ENnie Awards-winning blog) says…
Erik Mona (of Paizo) says…
DoingIndy.com says…
Examiner.com says…
The Illuminerdy (ENnie Awards-nominated blog) says…

OK, enough about that. As you can see, there are tons of blogs and articles out there with advice regarding large conventions like Gen Con. My advice is going to be different. I am going to rehash what I posted last year (it was my most popular post ever!). To most of it, Wheaton’s Law applies. For those of you who are link-averse, Wheaton’s Law is this: Don’t be a dick.

However, the things about which I’m going to speak, are the sorts of things people are not aware they’re being dickish about. They’re not being malicious; they just don’t have any personal experience with these sorts of issues, so when they start breaking Wheaton’s Law, they don’t know they’re doing it. My job here is not to castigate, but to educate.

Specifically, I’m talking about dealing with those who have physical challenges at conventions. The handicapped, to be blunt. People like my wife. She can walk, but conventions like Gen Con are too big for her. So, she uses a wheelchair to get around. This year, she has a snazzy metallic red electric wheelchair, but in years past, I’ve pushed her in a manual wheelchair. This gives us a unique experience at Gen Con.

The average con goer is, shall we say, Plus-sized. OK, that’s fine. I could stand to lose 40 pounds myself. At conventions, people often have large backpacks. Sometimes, everything they brought to the convention is in this backpack. People are not always aware that this backpack adds 2′ – 3′ to their girth. They spin around quickly. If you’re in a wheelchair, those backpacks are level with your head. More than once my wife has narrowly avoided being clobbered in the head by an unaware con-goer suddenly spinning around because something caught his or her eye. When I’m pushing her, I’m watching for this sort of thing. This year she’ll be driving herself and I actually worry she’s going to get beat up.

  • Be Aware of People Around You

Moving through large groups of slow moving people is a challenge in a wheelchair. Sometimes people back up unexpectedly. Worse, they often stop unexpectedly. Sometimes it’s because the crowd in front of them has stopped. Sometimes its because something caught their eye. Sometimes it’s because someone caught their eye, and they’re stopping to chat. If this happens to you, look ahead a bit and see if there’s a spot in a booth where you can divert to stop. Please, please, please don’t just stop in the middle of the aisle to root through your backpack. You’re not in a High School hallway, stopping in the middle of the aisle is hugely disruptive. Also, if you’re pushing your kids in a stroller, you really need to watch where you’re pushing them. My wife almost got t-boned by a stroller last year because the mother had her head turned one way, watching something, and was pushing and walking in a different direction… in a CROWDED hall way (not even the Dealer Hall). She also almost got run into by a guy walking very fast and not watching the direction he was walking. His friend yelled to to his attention, otherwise he would have tripped over my wife’s (in motion) wheelchair. Situational Awareness is a thing. You don’t have to be a fighter pilot to practice it. Seriously.

  • Step to the far sides or into a booth space, if possible, to have conversations with friends or on your phone, or to look at the map, in your backpack, etc.

Shower regularly and use deodorant. This has been covered by almost every blog and podcast I’ve seen on the subject. I bring it up because something most people aren’t aware of: Gamer Funk is worse when your head is at waist level to the average con goer. Think about it: you sit on your butt every day during the con, often for 4-6 hours at a time. Frequently, walking around the city during the Con can be like walking on the surface of the sun (i.e. it’s HOT). The chairs don’t breathe. The A/Cs in the convention center will have trouble keeping up with a roomful of gamers when it’s hot and humid outside. Except for a very few, select people, most attendees have the crotch region covered completely by a couple of layers of clothes (basically, I’m talking about everyone who can’t get away with wearing something like a swimsuit or lingerie to Gen Con). Sweat happens. Funky things happen in dark, warm, moist areas. This is not shameful, it’s just a fact of bio-chemistry. Cleanliness saves noses!

  • Bathe regularly. Use deodorant.

Often, those of us using wheelchairs move a little slower than others in the Dealer Hall. Sorry, it’s just difficult to push a large mechanical object through a crowd. Sometimes, we have to stop for a moment to wait for an opening to cross an aisle. I know you’re in a hurry. I know there’s a demo you think you’re late for, or a game in another room. But FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY: DO NOT STEP OVER THE LEGS OF THE PERSON IN THE WHEELCHAIR. This happens to my wife at least once a year. Someone will get the bright idea that they can cut a corner if they just step over my wife’s legs. That is 100% NOT OKAY. For one, these people usually misjudge how much space they need and end up kicking my wife’s feet or the wheelchair. She’s not paralyzed, OK? She has feeling in the lower half of her body. In fact, because she has a degenerative spine condition, she feels these jolts acutely. IN HER BACK.

Pain is a funny thing (and I mean funny like a heart attack). In my wife’s case (and I know many people experience this same thing), it’s like gas prices. It’ll spike very quickly, and then take FOREVER to come back down. If you kick her wheels (however accidentally) or kick her legs because you felt stepping over her was quicker than going around, or accidentally knee the back of the chair because you’re standing too close in line, all of those jolts go right into her back. The extremities are ALL connected to the spine in some way. That jolt of pain doesn’t just go away. It takes HOURS. Often, it takes her lying down for hours before it gets back down to a manageable level and it’s not something that can be alleviated by popping a couple of ibuprofen. Chronic pain does not work that way.

More than once, she has missed out on a half-day or a whole day of a con because of this pain. When you are the cause because you carelessly stepped over her wheelchair and kicked her legs, causing a flare up of pain in her back, you have taken a day at Gen Con away from her. Is that worth saving 5 seconds to you?

  • Give wheelchairs a wide berth; don’t step over them.

This last thing is just actually a castigation because this happens every Gen Con and it’s not a matter of people being unaware; it’s a matter of people being rude jerks. If there’s a person with a wheelchair waiting for an elevator and they were there waiting when you and your group of friends arrived, WAIT FOR THE NEXT ELEVATOR IF YOU ALL WON’T FIT. More than once we have had our elevator poached by a group of rude assholes who rush to get into the elevator before we can. That’s being a dick. That’s being rude. You are bad people and should feel bad. When that happens, we hope the elevator breaks down with you in it. If I’ve had a really bad day, I hope the elevator breaks and falls back down to the ground floor with you in it. Don’t make me be a bad person for wishing bad things upon you.

  • Don’t be a dick.
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Dungeons & Dragons, 5th Edition – Jammin’ part 2

D&D Basic Game logo

After a short rest, the intrepid heroes (oops, they objected to that phrase) murderhobos continued to explore the ship. There was still one room on the main deck, beneath the forecastle they hadn’t entered, so they started there. To their surprise, they were greeted by a healthy-looking man and woman. The way they were garbed, possibly the Captain of the ship and his wife. Unfortunately, when they entered the room, the illusion vanished and they were replaced by horrible, rotting people who moved to attack. They put down the heucuva with little difficulty and searched the cabin for more booty, of which, there was plenty.

Beyond the captain’s cabin, at the bow of the ship, they found a large number of the golden skeletons. After inadvertantly activating them, the PCs gave the skeletons a wide berth so they could continue repairing the ship. Our her…murderhobos proceeded to the lower decks. They encountered more storage, and a hoard of zombies which they dispatched with FIRE. (A diabolical DM would’ve had the flaming zombies run around, setting fire to the ship before they were destroyed… but I was tired and forgot.) On the lowest deck, in what would be the bilge, they found a stone sarcophagus, completely with a skeleton dressed in rotting robes. The specter of that wizard apparated and tried to drag them to a horrible doom, but they were able to defeat it (I had to substitute wraith stats… which probably helped their survival). Ren of the Cloak picked that time to show up and thank them for all their hard work, admitting to fibbing a bit when it came to the set up for this whole expedition. He took the two nicest pistols they found and went on his merry way, leaving the rest of the loot and the Spelljammer for the murderhobos.

Will there further adventures lead them to the stars? To Wildspace? Will we ever find out?

*shrug* Dunno.

Upon further reflection, I have decided that while I like D&D 5E as an RPG, and I appreciate the work that went into and production values of the Starter Set, I think that product is mis-named. Sure, it has pre-gens, a decent starting adventure, and a book with rules, but it doesn’t really teach you how to play. If you’re a total newbie, who has never played a tabletop RPG before, the D&D Starter Set is going to be confusing. It’s not going to help you and might put you off tabletop gaming altogether. Despite being called a Starter Set, it seems to make the assumption that you have some experience with RPGs, just maybe not D&D.

And that’s too bad. At least the Mentzer Red box from the 80s had a solo adventure that held your hand through character creation and took you on a short adventure to teach you what the game was about. The Star Wars starter boxes and the Pathfinder Beginner Game aren’t perfect in that regard, either, but WotC should at least taken some lessons for them. The Starter Set is not the gateway product it needs to be.

That doesn’t mean 5E is a bad game. I know how to play D&D already and I like the system. I like it better than 3.X, 4E, or Pathfinder (speaking strictly from a mechanics standpoint) based on what little I’ve seen so far. I’m already thinking of adventure I can run at Gary Con using the Basic Rules, and when I run it at home, I’ll probably keep my game as close to the basic rules as possible allowing for use of the full PHB class list (though maybe not all the races; I’m not sure I have any use for dragonborn in my preferred campaign settings).

Value for the money: the Basic Game cannot be beat. It’s free! The Starter Set is not horrible. If you buy it on Amazon, you’re paying $13ish for a nice box, a set of dice, and an adventure for levels 1-4, so really, that’s not a bad deal. Dice these days will cost between $7 – $9 by themselves. As I’ve said before, the Starter Set is a bad product for people who have no idea what this D&D thing is or how to play it, but if you want a box to keep your Basic Game in, you get an adventure and dice, too! I’m not sorry I bought it; I may even run the adventure some day (or at least steal some ideas from it).

It’s too early to judge the full game of Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition, but I am looking forward to getting the full rules now, where I was ambivalent prior to playing the basic game. I think I will be adopting as my go-to edition of D&D, based on what I know now. As I have changed my mind on this matter before, I reserve the right to do so again if I get the PHB & DMG, look at them, and have a WTF??? reaction. I have a hard time believing the full rules, if they’re as modular as I’ve been lead to believe, will be so radically different from the game I just played.

TL;DR Summary: I liked D&D 5E. If you find 3.x/Pathfinder and/or 4E to be too complex or just not to your liking, if you think AD&D or BECMI D&D did it better, you might want to give this edition a chance.

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Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition – Jammin’

When the new D&D Starter Set and Basic Rules came out, my players asked me to run a few sessions of it before Gen Con. One was going to be playing several games and the other was going to be running several games. We were between Star Wars adventures at the time, so everyone agreed it would be a good time for a 2-shot game of D&D, using brand-spanking new rules!

I’m sure the adventure within the Starter Set is fine, but it looked like it would be too long for my group to finish in two four-hour sessions. We only meet every other week and most of us don’t interact much outside of the game, so those four hours are not four hours straight of gaming, it’s more like two-and-a-half hours of gaming and an hour-and-a-half of bullshit, and that’s IF everyone shows up on time. (That’s not a judgement of my players, it’s just the way things are; we’re all adults with families and lives and none of us consider gaming to be Serious Business™.)

So, I selected a shorter adventure, “Jammin'” by James Ward from Dungeon magazine #21 (January/February 1990). I heard 5E was really good with backwards compatibility and from the looks of things, all I needed to do was swap out the monster stats and Bob’s your uncle.

I don’t know why I became British just then.

mohs“Jammin'” had another excellent thing going for it: it enabled me to use the giant sailing ship cardstock model my wife made for our Goblin Skulls & Shackles Pathfinder game. It seemed a shame to have it continue to collect dust in the closet when this would be a perfect opportunity to make use of it again.

And so, we embarked upon another edition of Dungeons & Dragons.

There were 4 characters
Naivara Laidon (Silverfrond), a wood elf rogue
Rurin Stoneforge, a hill dwarf cleric
Salazar Thrace, a human wizard
Ebenezer, a human fighter

It was pretty classic party. They went around the table and introduced themselves and talked a bit about their backgrounds, flaws, etc. Everyone seemed to enjoy the mechanics of backgrounds, personality traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws. I know some people will be thinking “I’m a role-player, I don’t need the game to tell me how my character is supposed to act. Warrrgggbarglllleeee WORST EDITION EVER.” There are many players, however, who enjoy the game who like to have such information suggested by the game so they have a better handle on how to create a unique and interesting character. Not everyone is a great improvisationist or can come up with original character traits like that on the fly (and remember to apply them consistently during the game). If it encourages role-play, I’m for it. If you don’t like it, don’t use it. It’s as simple as that.

The adventure started out in a classic fashion. The PCs were in the Happy Stein tavern (they already knew each other, however), and were enjoying a dinner provided by Ren of the Cloak, an adventurer of some renown. He had a proposition for the PCs; go to the valley of Shemar and see if the ship said to carry the fabled treasure of the great Kings of the Sky would appear by the light of tomorrow’s full moon. He found a scroll that told of the legend when the ship would appear (which conveniently destroyed itself right after he read it), and tomorrow night was the first occurrence of that particular kind of full moon in 500 years. He was unable to go himself because of an important meeting with a grumpy wizard, so he was offering this opportunity to the PCs in exchange for first pick of any magical treasure and a tenth share of the wealth. They agreed, a contract was drawn up, and the PCs set off!

It was a long journey, but they found the valley around dusk. The ship, as foretold, was there! It was battered, tattered, and covered in glowing moss, but it appeared to be intact. From the mizzenmast few a black flag depicting a skull & crossbones. They explored the ship and (the DM missed the opportunity to describe the myriad piles of goblin skeletons, including a nasty, ugly dog-like skeleton) discovered spherical piles of colored bones. The bones near the hatch to the main hold were golden. Ebenezer shoved one of the odd, roughly-spherical piles and it animated into a golden skeleton. He attempted to smash the thing, but it ignore him and started to patch holes in the deck. They agreed not to disturb any of the other piles of bones.

There were enough piles of bones on the Forecastle that they chose not to search it thoroughly, though they were able to climb up on the sterncastle. Attached to the mizzenmast, they found a large golden coin, pierced with an iron spike. They removed it and saw that it depicted a vaguely spider-like being on the reverse, and an insectoid ship on the obverse. They elected to explore the rooms under the sterncastle next. The first room contained a score of kegs of smoke powder. The next was a chart room that looked like some wild animal had taken it apart. The next was one of the officer’s quarters and as soon as they entered, an ogre’s skeleton leapt to the attack. They bashed the bony thing to bits and continued on to another room. It’s walls were reinforced, but once they broke though, they discovered five zombies were ready to eat them.

The battle was hard one, but eventually they defeated the zombies (they just Would. Not. Die!). They took the opportunity for a short rest, barricaded themselves in the room, and while Ebenezer recovered from holding off the zombies, Salazar and the rest examined the odd throne-like chair in the room. A large furnace was attached to the chair and after translating instruction on the wall, they learned they were on a spelljammer, complete with a furnace that would burn magical items to power the ship.

After they recovered and rested, they examined the final room under the sterncastle and found it was covered in a nasty mold (I had to handwave this since there aren’t rules for yellow & brown mold yet). They proceeded to the rooms under the forecastle. Ebenezer rammed open the left door and dislodged a pile of bones which caused a chain reaction, disturbing the nine other piles of bones in the room. Yellow skeletons animated and began firing their pistols at the intruders. Ebenezer blockaded the door with his body and defended the opening as they picked off the rattle of skeletons** one by one. Salazar, the rapping wizard*, incinerated quite a few with burning hands, but the skeletons kept coming. Eventually, they smashed all the bones to bits and gathered up the valuables from the room, and retreated back to the helm furnace for another short rest before tackling the right side of the forecastle and the main hold…

The zombies were great. 5th edition zombies get a save when they’re reduced to 0 HP. If they make the save, they drop to 1 HP instead and keep fighting. Radiant or critical damage will keep them down, though. Basically zombies are trolls for 1st level characters (particularly since 1st level clerics can’t turn undead). The first time the zombie stayed up, they got worried (particularly since it took so much damage before they thought it should have died). The second time the same one kept coming, they got scared. They experienced the Holy S*$%, WTF? reaction for the first time in a long time. It was great!

My players really liked the Advantage/Disadvantage mechanic. It was much easier than trying to figure out who was flanking who and which square was threatened by what. Combat moved much faster than in 3.X, Pathfinder, or D&D 4E, yet everyone still had a variety of actions they could do, at least, enough that they didn’t feel like their role was just to perform a basic attack over and over, like Basic D&D (BECMI/Rules Cyclopedia, as defined by this blog) could sometimes feel. They also like Inspiration.

In general, everyone really seemed to enjoy themselves and I heard a lot of praise for the system. The session sparked a lot of curiosity about what sort of options were going to be available once the core books are out. Personally, I like the way the mechanics are set up now, and when I run this edition at conventions, I am going to stick to the Basic Game for combat and encounter adjudication. It’s fast and fun. I like what I’ve seen of this edition so far. I like it a lot.

* I’m not sure which personality trait required him to sing his spells, but that’s what he did and he had a whole sheet of lyrics to use.

** We decided the proper way to refer to a group of skeletons was as a “rattle.”

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Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition (D&D Next)

The Starter Set for the next edition of Dungeons & Dragons was released on Thursday, July 3rd to Wizard’s Play Network-affiliated game stores and the Basic Game PDF was made available for free download at Wizards of the Coast’s website (https://www.wizards.com/DnD/Article.aspx?x=dnd/basicrules).

That a new edition of the game was coming shouldn’t be news (unless you’re new to gaming and just happened to stumble upon this blog instead of the myriad more well-known sites). I downloaded the Basic Game as soon as it was available and picked up the Starter Set on my way home from work. I’m not going to do an in-depth review because there are many other sites out there who have already done it faster and more comprehensively than I will. These are just my thoughts on it coming from a gamer with D&D experience stretching back to 1982.

At first glance, the game is imminently more approachable than 4E was. It also firmly establishes the Forgotten Realms as the default setting. The Basic Game even uses a character from R.A. Salvatore’s Icewind Dale trilogy as the sample character created during character creation. While I have mixed feeling about the Forgotten Realms, I do like that the setting is less nebulous than what was presented in the initial materials from 4E. I never got a decent sense of what the world was supposed to be in 4E, other than a town here, a village there, and all of it surrounded by dangerous wilderness. A big part of what I like about Dungeons & Dragons is exploring the rich histories written for their fantasy worlds, and 4E’s Points of Light world seems almost like an afterthought to me.

IMG_0932So first, the Starter Set. (You can click on the picture to see the full-res versions.)

The box is sturdy and should hold up to years of use. There’s a thin cardboard insert inside to take up space; this can be discarded if you want to store more things in the box. It includes a 32-page rule book, a 64-page adventure, pre-generated characters (1 of each class, plus a second fighter), a few advertisements, and DICE! These are better dice than my first D&D boxed set came alas, but sadly, new gamers will not know the dubious joy of coloring in the numbers with a cheap crayon.

IMG_0933IMG_0934IMG_0936The characters provided include the information you’ll need to level them up to level 5, since character creation rules aren’t included in the Starter Set. The adventure itself is designed to take characters from levels 1 – 5 and if your group only meets a few times a month, should last you until the core rule books are available.

 

Of course, if you can’t wait, there’s always the Basic Game. The Dungeons & Dragons Basic Game has everything you need to create Fighters, Clerics, Rogues, and Wizards of human, elf, dwarf, or halfling persuasion. There’s even a few sub-races included if you aren’t satisfied with being just an elf or a dwarf. As I mentioned earlier, the character creation example references a character from the Forgotten Realms novels, and other examples reference other D&D worlds, such as Dragonlance, Planescape, and I think I saw a Ravenloft reference in there. The Basic Game is on version 0.1 right now. The plan is for the document to be updated as the core books are released. I assume not all of the options available for GMs regarding playstyles will be put in the Basic Game, but monsters will be and probably a few class options as well.

As far as the rules themselves…they’re not bad. I was pleasantly surprised. It feels like an update of AD&D with some modern design ideas incorporated. They obviously took lessons from d20/3.X and 4E, but the feel of the game (based on a reading of the Basic Game) is very much AD&D. Whether or not it retains that feel in play, well, I will find out shortly since I am running two sessions of it before Gen Con.

I loved 3.X when I started playing it, but after 5-6 years, I was burnt out by the complexity and bloat. I like Pathfinder’s presentation and fluff, but it has the same complexity (arguably, Pathfinder is even more complex). 4E…I tried it and just didn’t like it. At all. There were a few good ideas, but it just didn’t click for me. When I first read the book, I did not want to play it. I eventually did, of course, because I couldn’t make a fair evaluation of the system otherwise (and it didn’t seem fair to judge it based on one disastrous Gen Con DCCs tournament). I’m hoping minion rules will make an appearance in the DMG; those were always good for large battles where the PCs can feel badass by wiping out dozens of them at a time. I would peg this edition as rules-medium right now. I could see myself enjoying this. If it’s as modular as they say, and I can easily control the rules bloat…yeah, it’ll be a good game.

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Star Wars: Edge of the Empire – Beyond the Rim, part 6

This adventure synopsis is written from the perspective of my Edge of the Empire character, Kelko Gen, a Rodian explorer. It contains spoilers for Fantasy Flight Game’s adventure Beyond the Rim.

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The journey through hyperspace to Raxus Prime gave us an opportunity to patch Braddock up some, though he would still need more robust medical facilities to make a full recovery. We also did some maintenance to Banshee. I was looking forward to giving our report to Riham and moving on; this job was too painful to make whatever he was going to pay us worthwhile.

Naturally, we dropped out of hyperspace right in the middle of the damn Imperial shipyard! I’ll have to talk to Azira about that later. I tried to convince the Imperials we were just there to drop a load of junk off on the planet, but they wanted to see our permits. Since we didn’t have permits and Azira didn’t have what she needed to forge us permits that quickly, I took Banshee down into the smog-shrouded junk yard planet. TIE fighters pursued us, but I am an awesome pilot and managed to outfly them in the junk canyons. The sounds of their explosions was most satisfying. Unfortunately, Banshee took a bit of a beating, so we were going to need repairs before leaving Raxus Prime.

We landed in Isotech’s hidden base, using the coordinates provided by Riham. His head tech, a Rodian named Norta met and debriefed us. He gave us 2,000 credit and promised the rest tomorrow when Riham arrived. We spent the rest of the day getting patched up and took the opportunity to browse their showroom. Tomorrow, we’ll meet with Riham and get the rest of our 10,000 credit, then haul jets out of here.

…the log ends here, unfinished.

After Action Report
Strike Team Auresh-2
First Lieutenant Maxim Bonosh reporting
As we approached the Isotech facility, we became aware of a firefight taking place in the landing bays. Apparently, our informants were correct. The Yiyar Clan rodians jumped the gun. This is why we should not rely on non-humans. We waited until the fighting died down; I had no doubt the rodians would be eradicated by the Isotech forces. There was a Correllian freighter occupying one of the bays, our after-action analysis indicated it was the “Banshee” registered to a rodian Captain named Kelko Gen, currently convicted of Antiquities Smuggling among other crimes and conspicuously absent from the prison in which he is supposed to be incarcerated. I ordered our assault teams to begin the operation.

The freighter managed to take off, but our ships destroyed it. An escape pod was jettisoned during the fighting. We scanned one lifeform aboard. The pod was tracked and landed on the planet. It is statistically unlikely the pod landed anywhere on Raxis Prime that will be survivable for a significant length of time and I believe allocating resources to capture its occupant are not justified at this time.

We sustained acceptable losses, and despite Isotech having a corvette hidden in the rubble of their base, managed to achieve our objectives. We prevented the escape of the Twi’lek Riham. Unfortunately, he was killed in the assault on the corvette’s auxiliary bridge along with a Rodian pilot and a Bothan.

Attached you will find a summary of the technology and data we recovered.

So, yeah, after a great beginning to the night, we all pretty much died. TPK, baby! Our arrival to Raxus prime was heralded by pretty good die rolls. We performed well on our social interactions (it helped that we didn’t have to use our skills for that), and when the Yiyar Rodians attacked, we pretty much wiped the floor with them, although one did managed to disable the engines of our ship. Then the Empire attacked. Braddock worked on fixing our ship, while the rest of us help get the Isotech corvette underway. That was when our dice decided to go home for the night.

 

It was bad. Really bad. Every skill roll we made, the dice said Grumpy_Cat NO

And these were not skills we were particularly bad at. We had characters proficient in mechanics and piloting. We used up our Destiny Pool. We failed. Hard. The GM threw us all the bones he could to keep us going, but eventually all avenues were exhausted.

Prison or death, it doesn’t matter. Those characters were done.

On the plus side, we were all able to make new characters using what we learned from Beyond the Rim. We’re going to be playing Jewel of Yavin next, and our characters are much more suited for what we’ve come to expect from Star Wars: Edge of the Empire. You’ll have to wait until the next blog entry for that, though…unless you browse through the Obsidian Portal page and look at the characters.

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Star Wars: Edge of the Empire – Beyond the Rim, part 5

This adventure synopsis is written from the perspective of my Edge of the Empire character, Kelko Gen, a Rodian explorer. It contains spoilers for Fantasy Flight Game’s adventure Beyond the Rim.

SWEotE logo

As the battle raged below us, we took a few moments to reflect. How did it come to this? How did we screw up so badly?

Now that that was out of the way, we patched up our wounds as best we could, blockaded the door, and waited for the firefight to die down. Fires burned into the night, and we took turns taking watch while the others tried to get some sleep. In the morning, we were relieved to see that the fighting had stopped. We couldn’t tell from our vantage point in the hanger who won the fight, but there were plenty of carrion eaters having breakfast. Maybe the animals won.

We crept downstairs. Yup, the animals won. Unfortunately, none of the cybernetic nexu were dead, so I was missing out on all the sweet salvage that could pay for this debacle. We did stumble across Captain Loonydrawers, or at least, what was left of him. Maximo took his comlink, which appeared to be heavily modified, if not outright guerrilla tech. It might be worth something. Naturally, we managed to attract the attention of one of the feeding nexu, and our warm, living, fleshy bodies appealed to it as breakfast more than whoever it was currently eating. We blasted it as it charged, but it still managed to grab Braddock and further mangle the human before we were able to put it down. Now we had to drag his unconscious bulk around the jungle for goodness knows how far back to our ship. Not to be deterred by any semblance of good luck, our voyage to Cholganna IV gifted us with Imperials drawn to the sound of our blaster fire. We managed to get out of the refugee compound and into the reeds by the river before they found us, all because Other Human decided he needed to watch them.

Part of me wanted to eat my blaster. Another part of me wanted to make Other Human eat my blaster. A third part of me wanted to start blasting Imperials. The rational, I-Want-to-Live part of me decided surrendering to the Imperials gave the greatest chance of not dying today. So, we surrendered. We explained the situation, leaving out parts that sounded illegal and emphasizing that we were just looking for some salvage and that we were definitely not into sedition, terrorism, theft, or anything like that. The other Rodians had already spilled their guts to the Imperials though, and threw us under the speeder. I told the Imperial in charge, “You can’t trust Rodians!” He seemed to like my self-deprecating groveling and they escorted us back to our ship. I wanted to throw my arms around Banshee and hug her and kiss her forever and ever, but she’s really big and it would have looked strange if I had wrapped my arms around the landing gear. We blasted off of Cholganna IV with no salvage, many wounds, and our pride in critical condition. But we were alive, and in hoc to an Imperial officer.

Fantastic.

We briefly considered skipping out on our employer, but I couldn’t convince everyone to flee to Zeltron and hang out with the scantily-clad hedonists. We didn’t have any money, besides. Since we had no money, we couldn’t even return to The Wheel because we couldn’t afford the docking fees. We had no choice but to press on to Raxis Prime and meet up with our employer. Hopefully, the information we had would still be worth the 10,000 credit he promised us.

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Star Wars: Edge of the Empire – Beyond the Rim, part 4

This adventure synopsis is written from the perspective of my Edge of the Empire character, Kelko Gen, a Rodian explorer. It contains spoilers for Fantasy Flight Game’s adventure Beyond the Rim.

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I gotta keep this one short. The nexu could get smart and start up those stairs at any minute. We’re really stuck between the asteroid and the space worm now. The former Captain of the Sa Nalaor? Turns out he went a little crazy after crashing here. Still lives here, in this compound with the surviving crew. They brought us here after capturing us with those other rodians. We managed to get the humans back on their feet, but now that other droid, the one who won’t tell me his designation, only his “name,” is deactivated. The rodians were awfully eager to have Captain Cuckoo Crazypants feed us to his nexu. but fortunately, we were able to convince him not to kill us just yet by dropping the name of his son’s company. It would have been nice for our employer to tell us the family ties his employers have to this wreck and its Captain. Yeah, that would have been very valuable information, indeed.

Turns out, not everyone in Captian Nutso’s camp is as enamored of hiding out in this jungle as he is and we found out the lady responsible for the cybernetic monstrosities we’ve been fighting was part of the crew and really does not want the Empire to find her. I can sympathize, and we offered to take her out of here when we leave, if she’ll help us leave.

Just when it looks like we’ve got a good escape plan in our back pockets and Captain Insano McCrazy might not kill us on a whim, the blasted Imperials show up. I’d wager ten credits to my left gonad they followed those other rodians from The Wheel. Fortunately, their arrival caused mass chaos and we were able to retrieve our gear in the confusion. Unfortunately, the cyber-doctor lady decided they were coming for her and let loose her nexu, screaming how no one was going to take her alive. Braddock and I headed for the makeshift shuttle bay to see if we could get the shuttle working, despite the camp mechanic’s insistence it was totally junked. Everyone else here is either crazy or lying to us, so I figure she might be half-cracked, too.

The shuttle was junk. Just a shell. It figures SHE’D be telling the truth. Azira and Maximo made it up here to the shuttle bay while we were looking things over and it looks like the survivors and the Imperials are wiping each other out, with help from the nexu. Maybe we’ll catch a lucky break and they’ll kill each other off so we can take all the salvage I can fit in my ship and we can blast off of his hellhole.

I just know I’m going to see nexu comin’ for me whenever I close my eyes now. Oh-whoa here she comes...she's a man eater!

This was a really rough session for us. None of us are really built for social situations; had I a better understanding of the rules when we made our characters, we probably would have built more well-rounded characters. Specialization is not something to be done lightly in this system, even if all the characters are specialized in different areas, not unless you have enough players to specialize in EVERYTHING and we have two players who specialized in combat. Oh well, we didn’t die, so it’s not a complete loss, but just about everything we tried either failed or barely succeeded with heavy disadvantages.

Maybe playing this game will break the group of the habit of building characters that seem expressly designed to survive in a D&D-esque world. When all you’ve played for years is D&D/Pathfinder, it’s a difficult paradigm to move past. Old habits die hard; everyone knows if you make a bunch of social characters for a dungeon crawl, you usually die horrible deaths. We had no idea what types of adventures FFG was going to throw at us with their new Star Wars game, and I’m really pleased to see that social skills actually matter. I have dozens of D&D and Pathfinder adventures sitting on my shelves that are mostly combat, combat, combat, with a few, non-critical, optional social encounters. Seeing that Beyond the Rim contains heavy elements where role-playing and skills that don’t involve shoving a blaster in someone’s face really matter is refreshing.

The original plan was to wrap this adventure up by the next session (this coming Friday). Our progress was so slow for this session (due to our bad luck; we literally had ZERO Light Side force points in the Destiny Pool when we started this session), wrapping up Beyond the Rim might take two more sessions, taking us through June. We still need to decide what to play after this. There’s been a lot of news about the next edition of D&D since we started Edge of the Empire, much of which has not been as off-putting to me as I expected. Mostly the news about Basic D&D being free, so with the Starter Set and the Basic D&D PDF, I won’t need anything else to try out the system (in fact, I don’t even need the Starter Set, just the Basic D&D PDF). I’m not sure I’m ready to hope back on the D&D treadmill, though, so it’s at the bottom of my list. Besides, I made some promises about a Fate game with Nazi-controlled cybernetic gorilla assassins.

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Star Wars: Edge of the Empire – Beyond the Rim, part 3

This adventure synopsis is written from the perspective of my Edge of the Empire character, Kelko Gen, a Rodian explorer. It contains spoilers for Fantasy Flight Game’s adventure “Beyond the Rim.”

SWEotE logo

Sometime between our night in the escape pod mired in the swamp and moving the Banshee to the next major site of crash debris, Maximo caught some sort of bug. I’ll bet he drank some of the swamp water and got himself some nice parasites. Goldbricker. We activated the other droid and dragged him out with us. Although…I don’t actually remember giving the order to activate him. If that droid can activate himself, I may have to give more thought to putting restraining bolts on him. You can put more than one on a droid, right?

The wreckage we found appeared to be the entire drive section of a Banking Clan frigate. Braddock and I decided to scout it out while Azira stayed behind with the two droids. We managed to climb up on top of the wreck, and naturally, I found the weak spot in the hull and we fell into the ship. Landing in rushing water, we were whisked away by the current. I almost managed to drown, but was able to save myself just as I wished I had been born with gills instead of lungs. Fortunately, I was near enough to Braddock that he was able to help me out of the water. We found a safe way for Azira and the droids to join us, and began exploring the wreck while Other Human goldbricked and puked his guts out on the ship. I told him any mess he made was his responsibility to clean up. Maybe I should have locked him in the airlock while we were exploring. Cleaning messy out of airlocks is easy; you just vent them to space once you’re underway.

After a bit of exploration, we confirmed the ship we were on was the Sa Nalaor. Huzzah for us; at least we were in the right place. We also found the front half of the ship and headed there. I chose a safe landing spot rather than the more sheltered spot near the wreckage, because I was still shaky from nearly being drowned. Besides, who would be looking for us way out in the far reaches of the Outer Rim? Of course, Braddock had to go and say “I’m surprised we haven’t seen any nexu” or something stupid like that, because OF COURSE there were nexu in the ship. And not just nexu, NOOOOO, they were cybernetically enhanced nexu! What kind of sick bastard looks at a large murder machine made of teeth, claws, and bloodlust and thinks “This thing could really use some cybernetic enhancements!”? After letting them chew on the other droid for a bit (not IT-3PO; he’s valuable), we managed to put down three of the abominations. I then had the brilliant idea of cutting out some of the cybernetic enhancements to take back to our employer. We hauled jets out of the wreckage and ran into our friends from The Wheel, those rodians who tried to abscond with IT-3PO. We also ran into IT-3PO old master, the former Captain of the Sa Nalaor. The actual order of events is pretty fuzzy because Braddock decided, in the midst of my negotiations with the rodians, that he needed to shoot them all. While we were still injured from the fight with those enhanced nexu. We were also surrounded. Yeah, I’m thinking tactics is not part of his repertoire. Maybe that’s why he’s a bounty hunter and not a soldier.

The rodians blasted him so bad he was little more than a charred lump, though he did managed to survive somehow. Azira fled from the fight, and who can blame her? It’s not like we were in the strategically advantageous position. The other droid chose that moment to surrender us and offer up all our information, IT-3PO, and our salvage. I’m not sure what gives him the authority to do that. [Note to self: RESTRAINING BOLTS] I didn’t want to give up the salvage; I was already out a lot of money on this trip, so I negotiated with the rodians. They wanted Braddock’s hands. Since he was in no position to disagree, I agreed to slice them off for them and give the rodians a hand (or two). As I drew my vibroblade and moved to carve up some human, they spotted the parts we took off the nexu and agreed to take those instead. Dammit. I would rather they took Braddock’s hands. At least with no hands, he couldn’t shoot anyone I was talking to.

At least we still have information to take back to our employer. I just hope it’s enough to make up for the complete pile of Bantha poodoo this job has become.

Maximo, aka Other Human’s player called out sick, which is why he’s Mr. Not Appearing in this Game. Of course my character thinks his character is goldbricking, because Kelko Gen has contempt for both humans (especially now) and doesn’t trust the self-activating droid. Personally, I felt there were way too many impulsive decisions that were detrimental to our teamwork in this session, but these things happen. At least my dice were rolling better, although almost all of my success came with a bunch of drawbacks. It kind of fits my head canon that I was hungover last session and I’m still recovering this session (drowning to within 1 point of death didn’t help). It’s coincidental, of course, but gives a sort of verisimilitude to the game.

After the game, we spoke briefly on what we were going to play next. There will likely be a Doctor Who: Adventures in Time & Space one-shot again, followed by me stepping up to the GM plate again. Four out of Six of my players are interested in Fate or Savage Worlds as the next game. One player hasn’t really weighed in, since he was out sick, and the last player indicated a preference for games in which you can see a clear progression of power as your character gains more experience (i.e. the progression of games like Pathfinder & D&D 4E). Frankly, that made me cringe because I’m no longer interested in those types of games. Clearly, we need to have more discussion on the topic. I tried starting a discussion on Obsidian Portal about it, but participation was too sporadic and not inclusive. I suppose the best thing will be to have the discussion before or after a regular game that ends early. I may need to dedicate an entire session to it, though I’m sure that won’t appeal to anyone who has to drive a fair distance to get to my game.

Categories: Star Wars RPG | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

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