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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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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.

SWEotE logo

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.

SWEotE logo

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.

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Vote for Me!

I don’t do a lot of cross-promotion here, since this is my gaming blog and not my author blog (though maybe I should, you all like fantasy & sci-fi novels, right?), but thanks to everyone who nominated me, I am on the ballot for Nuvo’s 2014 Best of Indy as Best Local Author!

050114_BestOf_VoteForMeVote for Me

(You could also vote for Q Artistry as Best Local Performing Arts Group and in the other categories they’re in, I know they’d appreciate it!)

If you’re an out-of-town Gen Con attendee, this is a good time to recognize your favorite local restaurants and food trucks, as well!

Categories: Random Thoughts | 2 Comments

Gaming Comics

Apart from the odd Foxtrot strip, gaming is a subject dominated by webcomics. A bad gaming comic makes fun of games and gamers in a mean-spirited way or represents us gamers in a stereotypically unflattering fashion. A good gaming comic can distill everything we love about gaming into a three or even one panel joke that is, at its essence, what it means to be a gamer.

The 800 lb. gorillas are comics like Knights of the Dinner Table, Dork Tower, and The Order of the Stick (about which I wrote a term paper for a literature class, by the way). The smaller, perhaps, lesser-known comics are by no means less worthy of our attention. Comics like Darths & Droids, Irregular Webcomic, and d20 Monkey (among others) are all glorious love letters to tabletop gaming.

What makes a good gaming comic? To me, the answer is simple: does it laugh with me and not at me?

No one enjoys being made fun of. It’s particularly painful when the person making fun of you couches it in the veneer of false kinship. I’m not going to talk about those people, because we all know these kind of people and they don’t need any more time in the spotlight. I want to put the spotlight on d20 Monkey.

Sure, I’m biased. I know Brian Patterson, somewhat, and I buy his t-shirts (as well as read his comic). I archived binged on d20 Monkey a few years ago when Brian submitted the comic to the ENnie Awards. d20 Monkey can be a tad Not Safe for Work at times, so binge at your own risk, but he always has something to say. Sometimes, it’s just a gag. Other times, he has something to say about bullying, or jerks who insist certain girls are Fake Geek Girls. He always has a Christmas story to tell (Brian LOVES Christmas and his enthusiasm is infectious–like a red & green plague of joy). The comics he writes that deal with Lovecraftian themes make me want to run Call of Cthulhu.

So check out d20 Monkey. Beware of dick jokes, but you know what? The penis is intrinsically funny and we could all use a good laugh now and then.

Categories: Random Thoughts | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Star Wars: Edge of the Empire – Beyond the Rim, part 2

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

Thanks to our highly competent navigator, we arrived in the Cholganna system without incident. Unfortunately, we arrived in the middle of a meteor swarm or some kind of asteroid collision. Looks like I picked the wrong time to drink heavily and stay up all night. Fortunately, the Banshee was up to the challenge of having several space rocks bounce off the hull ’cause she was handling like a brick dragging a parachute. Once I got us into orbit, we scanned the surface for the type of debris you might expect from a Munificent-class frigate. There was quite a lot of debris. At the very least, if the ship for which we searched was not on Cholganna, there was probably something else we could salvage so the trip would turn a profit.

I found a decent landing area only 1/2 a klick from a large deposit of debris. We geared up and ventured into the jungle, leaving the un-designated droid deactivated and stuffed in an escape pod. We brought IT-3PO with us, though. Azira marked the location on her datapad and was using it to lead us through the jungle when she stumbled (or something; I wasn’t really paying attention…try having a pounding hangover headache while you’re in a hot, humid jungle and see how focused you are). She started to fall into a ravine and I dove to save the only female on our vessel. Unfortunately, I tripped over a root and missed by a wide margin, taking a header into a ravine deep enough to turn me into a chunky blue-green paste at the bottom. I was prepared to kiss my ass goodbye when I landed on a ledge. As I lay there contemplated my mortality, the datapad landed on my chest. I don’t know where Azira ended up.

The sounds of gunfire from above told me the human found some trouble of their own, so I tried to see where Azira landed. She was quite a ways below me, and injured, but not dead. There must have been some … Force … protecting her, or maybe Bothans bounce. I shouted up for the humans to stop playing with their guns and lower a rope to us, but they didn’t pay attention to me for quite a while. They eventually lowered down some vines, because we, intrepid jungle explorers that we are with an EXPERIENCED explorer as pilot, FORGOT. ROPE. Clearly, I picked the wrong day to stop smoking.

It turns out, they were shooting at some bugs that were infesting the tree they got the vines from. Humans…can’t even deal with some bugs without their guns. Still, they’ll be useful if we run into an Nexu. We retreated back to the ship because we also left our medpacs on board, and after falling down a cliff and being attacked by bugs, we thought it might be useful to have some sort of first aid capability. We went out again and finally found the debris. It was a crashed escape pod. Our investigation revealed that it was infested by more, different bugs. Maximo, aka Other Human, devised a plan to smoke them out. Unfortunately, while working on putting his plan into attack we were attacked again by some sort of tentacled, toothy monsters. One of them dragged me into the trees, despite my best efforts to stab its face off. Fortunately, the humans shot it until it was dead and it dropped me. It looks like I picked the wrong day to stop huffing glue.

I hearby name Cholganna IV The Planet of Falling. I am tired of falling. It hurts. I don’t bounce well. I’m going to have nightmares now about falling.

We finished making our Log of Smoking Out Nasty Bugs and Maximo pushed it into the water toward the escape pod. It did its job and we were able to finally investigate the pod while we utilized it as a makeshift shelter in the evening. The pod was definitely from the Sa Nalaor. Azira managed to get a cockpit recording of the escape pod working and since we only found one, crushed corpse in the pod itself, we determined there might actually be survivors. That complicates our salvage.

The next morning, feeling better than I did the day before, we set off again. Fortunately, we neither fell off a cliff nor did we encounter any ravenous animals. We did, however, find the main wreckage of the Sa Nalaor. The jungle reclaimed the outer hull, so it was quite well camouflaged, but I was certain we could still get inside. I hope today wasn’t a bad day to stop taking deathsticks.

My character didn’t officially have a hangover, but I have decided it’s the only logical explanation for my inability to roll a success. I rolled the dice twice last session and failed both rolls. I rolled at least six to eight times this session and failed (with varying degrees of disaster) all but the last roll. I’m enjoying the game itself well enough, and it’s not that my character is unskilled in what I’m attempting, but the dice seem to absolutely hate me. I honestly thought at the beginning of the session there was a good chance my blown piloting rolls might cause us to crash our ship and all die in a fiery conflagration…or at least, get stranded on Cholganna. Seriously, it was painful.

Edge of the Empire as a game, though? It’s my favorite Star Wars RPG. It has surpassed WEG’s d6 version, which I’ve adored since the late 80s. I am interested to see how they handle Jedi as characters, though, because I’ve never thought they really worked well in a typical role-playing group of characters. Any future Star Wars games I plan will be with FFG’s system, that’s for sure.

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

Star Wars: Edge of the Empire – Beyond the Rim, part 1

The following post is written from an in-character point of view by the rodian scout Kelko Gen. It contains spoilers for Fantasy Flight Game’s Edge of the Empire adventure Beyond the Rim.

SWEotE logo

Since blasting away from Mos Shuuta and that miserable dirt-ball planet, Tatooine, we’ve been busy fixing up the ship. We had to borrow some money to get things working again and I took the opportunity to rechristen the ship. Banshee. It took a while, but it fits better than Krayt Fang for us. I think we’re more likely to run screaming from a serious threat than to start biting it to death. At least, that’s my intention. I didn’t take all that time to acquire a ship just to die in a futile gesture of heroics for someone who won’t appreciate everything we’ve sacrificed.

Some time during our trip to The Wheel to meet up with our twi’lek benefactor, we discovered a droid the former occupant of our ship was keeping. I didn’t catch its designation, but Braddock surmised it was a bounty Trex captured. Well, anything to mess with that nasty Transdoshan is tops with me, so we activated the droid and invited it to accompany us to our meetings on The Wheel. The job the twi’lek had for us to was simple: go to a remote planet, find a long lost ship, and salvage some junk from it. The ship has been missing for so long it’s almost legendary at this point, and he just happened to have another droid for us to take along, IT-3PO, who once belonged to the former captain. Our stowaway droid started talking about double-crossing the twi’lek and keeping whatever salvage we recovered and selling it for our own gain. One of the humans wanted to haul jets right away (I think it was Maximo…it’s hard to tell those two apart; I should make them wear name badges), but I vetoed that idea. We needed to buy supplies and do some research while waiting for IT-3PO. The job was not to abandon our one passenger and do the job without him…it….whatever.

Now, I might not be above stealing from the rich to give to the poor (me–in fact, that’s usually a pretty good policy because those rich guys usually earn their money on the back of hardworking folk like me), but a deal’s a deal, and we already owed this guy. We surreptitiously deactivated the droid and stowed him in our cargo hold while we stocked up on supplies and equipment we would need on our expedition. (The droid’s player had to leave early to deal with a family emergency.) There was serious talk of slapping a restraining bolt on that droid, and despite our decision to NOT do it, we bought some anyway…just in case. I made sure Banshee had medpacs and space suits, just in case, while the others bought whatever they thought they would need. Once again, Maximo was short on money, so the rest of us had to make sure there was enough food and a space suit for him. For a brief moment, I thought about not getting a space suit for him and then, if we lost pressure I’d see what happens to a squishy human when exposed to total vacuum. I figured that might get messy, so I relented. Azira did some pretty brilliant research and got us an exact location and an efficient hyperspace route to the planet where this ship allegedly went down, so if nothing else, we’ll get there in one piece. I hear the planet is crawling with nexu. Good thing we have an expert planetary scout with us. (That’s me.)

IT-3PO took his sweet time getting to us, and it turns out, a 5-pack of rodians (they give honest acquirers of unlicensed antiquities like me a bad name) wanted him worse then we did. The two humans gave chase, causing all manner of commotion in The Wheel while Azira and I wisely stayed behind with the ship. I already felt like talking to too many people on the station would jeopardize our expedition, and I didn’t want to take the chance that someone would break in and steal my stolen newly-acquired ship. I helpfully called station security and eventually they brought the two humans, along with IT-3PO back to us. The charges against our humans were fairly serious (public endangerment, joy riding, vehicular theft, assault, etc.) and I only think a couple of the charges might have been embellished. Fortunately, the proper application of credits to the palm of someone in authority works better than those high-paid attorneys of which the Coruscanti Snobbery Elite are so fond. I’m going to have to start a ledger or something, because said money always seems to come from MY pockets. I don’t even like humans!

Maybe they’ll earn their keep on this planet we’re going to.

We got a distressingly late start on the night’s session and I blew both knowledge rolls I made, so I didn’t get back into the swing of using the dice. There’s still at least 2-3 sessions of this by my estimate, so I’m looking forward to playing with this system. Plus, it seems likely much of the next session will take place in a planetary wilderness and that’s just Kelko Gen’s cup of tea errr…caf…coffeine…whatever the Star Warsy equivalent is. We’ve started discussing what we’re going to do after this Star Wars adventure is finished and I shared the revelation I had at Gary Con that I wasn’t burned out on GMing, I was just burned out on GMing Pathfinder. It seems likely we’re going to spend some time playing one-shots of various systems to see what’s a good fit for our group. I already have an idea for a fun Fate Accelerated one-shot (1938, Nazi-controlled cyborg gorillas…that’s all I’m sayin’).

Categories: Star Wars RPG | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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