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Design Diaries: The Final Edge of Fantasy

It should come as no surprise to anyone that has followed anything I’ve done in the past year or so that I am a fan of Fantasy Flight Games Edge of the Empire and Age of Rebellion. More importantly, I’m a huge fan of the things that Jay Little did when designing the mechanics that go on behind the game. The “narrative dice” as they are called help to make every single roll of the die important not only to the characters, but to the story as well through the use of several different axes of success and failure. Hearing about the idea of an action failing but still having something positive come out of it was exciting to me. Seeing it in action was mind-blowing in it’s simplicity. Since then, I’ve run the hell out of the game.

But like many others out there, I saw the potential of this engine to run games other than Star Wars. A lot of people started using it to play fantasy games. One poster over at the d20 Radio boards was simply running a general fantasy world. A few other posters were working on running a tabletop game of The Elder Scrolls with the system.

My mind went to a different kind of fantasy when I started thinking about what this game could do. My mind went to something I had spent countless hours in my youth and even into my adult years playing. Something that had gone through so many incarnations in it’s lifetime. Something that had gone from straight fantasy to science fiction and everything in between. My mind went to Final Fantasy.

The thing that drew my mind immediately to the idea was when I saw how Edge of the Empire handled the Force. When rolling to activate a Force power, you gather up a number of white 12-sided dice equal to your character’s Force Rating, and roll them, sometimes by themselves and sometimes as a part of bigger action depending on what you’re trying to accomplish with that particular use of the Force. Each face of the Force Die generates either dark side points or light side pips which are used to power these abilities. As you invest XP into improving your Force powers, you need to generate more and more of these points to activate the upgrades. Each face of the die has either one or two of these pips on them. The total number of pips is the same between the two, but the distribution is different. There are more faces with dark side pips then there are with light side pips, but that dilutes the potency of the dark side results, meaning that you will have a greater chance of rolling one dark side pip than two, whereas with light side pips you have a much greater chance of getting the more potent result of generating two. A character generally cannot use dark side pips to power their Force powers without suffering some ramifications in game from “touching the dark side.” And seeing as a character that is just starting out with the Force only has a Force Rating of 1 and thus only rolls one Force Die when activating his powers, it becomes easy to see that the temptation to use the dark side results will be there. This not only serves to almost perfectly model the use of the Force during the era the game is set in when the Emperor had all but eradicated the Jedi and their vast libraries of information and knowledge on the Force, but also, rather ingeniously I might add, gives a nod to the classic line in Episode V when Luke asks Yoda if the dark side is stronger.

“No. No. No. Quicker, easier, more seductive.”

Absolutely blew my mind when I first heard Jay Little describe it like that.

“But enough of that!” your saying. “This post is supposed to be about Final Fantasy! Right?” Well, yes. Technically. But how the Force Die was used in the game was the launching point of of this mental exercise that later developed into a full-fledged system hack, so bear with me. Some of you more astute readers may have already picked up on where I’m going with this. If so, good for you. You get a gold star*

Final Fantasy has always had a rich tradition of magic in it’s games. And more often than not, there’s a clear delineation between black magic and white magic. Black magic is the stuff that tends to hurt people and white magic is the stuff that tends to heal people.

There are two kinds of pips on the Force Die. One that is a white circle, and one that is a black circle. One side to power white magic, on side to power black magic. Obviously is wasn’t going to be quite that simple in practice, but in concept, the idea was the perfect springboard. The distribution would work quite well in theory – while the level of success would be skewed slightly towards the black magic spells, the number of points generated on those dice would make it harder to hit the required number to activate all the upgrades a high level caster would want.

The spells themselves could all be presented as the Force powers are – a basic ability that you can buy and then a series of upgrades you can purchase to modify the spell instead of just being able to cast more powerful versions of the spell like you get in the console titles. For example, looking at the classic Fire spell for an example, the basic power would simply allow you to cause damage to a target within a short distance from you. You can then spend XP on upgrades to increase the damage of the spell, making it more potent. Or you could spend it to hit more targets, or to hit targets that are farther away. What about giving it the Burn quality?

I’ve got some more notes typed up, but seeing as this post has already broken 1000 words, I think it’s best to save those for a later post. Hopefully this has whet your appetite somewhat.

*Gold star is non-transferable and not redeemable for any other rewards. Gold star has no cash value. Offer void outside of the continental US, MA, and the District of Columbia, or where prohibited by law.

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Heroes On Demand: Roq – Human Shockboxer

Author’s Note: This series originally had it’s inception over at The GSA at the very skilled hands of my good friend and fellow “incorrigible system tinker monkey” Donovan Morningfire, and it quickly became a very popular series that gave several of the site’s regular contributors – including your’s truly – a go to piece when things were rushed or in between larger pieces. And so, I have chosen to continue the find tradition here with some all new builds. Expect to see characters for different games covered as I feel the urge to write them up.

It’s the day you’ve been waiting for all week. Friday night. You’re looking to leave the work week on the floor behind you along with the carcasses of your enemies as you knock back a couple of brews with your buddies and sling some dice. Then your blood runs cold and a chill runs up your spine. You’re starting a new game tonight! And you don’t have a character!!!

Don’t worry. I’ve got you covered.

Roq – Disgraced Shockboxer

Roq had it all. He was finally a contender and was living the high life. The cuts and bruises, the concussions, the broken bones had all been worth it. His days were spent at the gym, his evenings in the shock boxing ring, and his nights at home with his wife and their newborn son. He loved every minute of it.

But it wasn’t meant to be. His lifestyle caught up to him. He began to spend more than he was bringing in, and both he and his manager saw that his star was beginning to descend. He began to get desperate, and did something that he still regrets to this day. He agreed to take a fall in the second round for a big payout and put a new, young shock boxer on the map. But the kid wasn’t cut out for it, and he wound up putting him down in the first round. Stories say the kid still hasn’t come out of the coma. Roq still swears that the kid should have never been in the ring with him. The syndicate head that wanted him to throw the fight lost a lot of money on the fight, and decided to take it out in blood. Roq returned home to the sight of a massacre. Several armed thugs were in his apartment, the bodies of his wife and son laid out on the ground. The put a gun to Roq’s head and he closed his eyes, accepting his death. And then the man with the gun said these words:

“I’m going to let you live. But we’ll be watching you. Not every day, but when you least expect it, we’ll be watching. If you try to connect with anyone, get any closer than paying a street vendor for a meal, and they will die. But it won’t be us killing them. It will be you. And we won’t stop until you stop. Until you choose to take your own life, we will not rest. You screwed with the wrong people. You have until tomorrow to leave this place before we start killing your neighbors.”

And just like that they were gone. Roq took what few possessions he could carry on his back and left. He’s since fallen off the radar. He hears his name every now and then, sees a story reference that fateful night in the ring, and he considers stepping in front of a train from time to time to be with his wife and child. But he doesn’t. He knows that he needs to take revenge on the bastards that did this to him, did this to his family. He’s not sure how, but he knows why.

Game System: Star Wars – Edge of the Empire by Fantasy Flight Games

RoqSpecies: Human
Career: Hired Gun
Specialization: Marauder
Obligation: Debt (+5 magnitude)
Motivation: Family

Characteristics
Brawn 4
Agility 2
Intellect 2
Cunning 2
Willpower 3
Presence 2

Skills: Athletics 1, Brawl 2, Coercion 1, Cool 1, Coordination 1, Discipline 1, Resilience 1, Vigilance 1

Talents: Toughened

Wound Threshold: 16
Strain Threshold: 13
Soak Value: 5
Defense: 0|0

Equipment: shock gloves (Brawl; Damage 4; Crit 5; Range [Engaged]; Stun 3, brass knuckles (Brawl; Damage 5; Crit 4; Range [Engaged]; Disorient 3), heavy clothes (+1 soak value), 4 stim packs, hand held comlink, 2 doses of synthskin, memento of his wife and child, 46 credits

Design Notes: Roq is an homage to several movie characters I’ve encountered over the years. The first is fairly obvious, and he takes his name from it. The second, and the core of his story, obligation, and motivation are taken from Jason Statham’s character in the movie Safe.

Roq’s obligation is a little twist on the debt. Even though he cost the crime lord a lot of money when he didn’t throw the fight like he was supposed to, his debtee isn’t interested in taking his credits. Instead, this is a debt that can only be paid in blood, and when his Obligation gets triggered, you can be sure there will be some goons looking to make good on their promise of killing those he gets close to. Paying down this Obligation can run the gamut of taking down high ranking members of the organization to taking steps to protect him and his friends by changing his identity. And should he forget why he puts up with it, there is always the memory of his wife and child who were violently taken away by these thugs to remind him.

Roq is designed to be an up close and in your face fighter. He’s not afraid to mix it up when blasters are drawn, and he’s confident of his ability to put down most foes before they can put up much of a fight. He can withstand quite a beating in combat, with a higher than average Wound Threshold and Soak. His main strength is his physical strength. Keeping along the Marauder tree will only help him put out more damage in combat through several picks of the Feral Strength and Lethal Blows talents. The many instances of Toughened and a few picks of Enduring on the same tree will continue to help him absorb more and more punishment to last a few more rounds in the ring. But he’s no slouch in the Willpower department either. This helps him keep an eye out for danger, keep a level head when danger does rear it’s ugly head, and also makes him an intimidating son of a bitch, all of which will help him stay alive. For further development, Roq could easily flow into the Commando specialization from Age of Rebellion, which would bolster his already high levels of damage resistance and melee prowess into nearly unstoppable levels. He could also benefit from some of the talents in the Bodyguard talent tree, and his high Wound Threshold and Soak make him a natural protector for squishier party members.

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Star Wars Edge of the Empire – Enter the Unknown

Enter the Unknown Cover ArtI finally got my hands on a copy of this book on Friday, and spent the weekend devouring it cover to cover, and I have to say that I am very, very impressed with the quality of material that Fantasy Flight Games has put forth in their first supplement. If I can look forward to the rest of their releases being just as good, they’ve made the decision to spend my money on them instead of another company a very easy one.

Enter the Unknown is billed as a sourcebook for the Explorer Career, and it does a phenomenal job of focusing in on this Career and the various Specializations that fall under it. The book itself is divided into three sections. The first section contains details on creating an Explorer character and includes write ups on various backgrounds that characters may have come from and ways they may have gotten into the lifestyle. This is followed up with Explorer focused Obligations, including several that aren’t included in the Edge of the Empire Core Rulebook: Fervor and Sponsorship. It also includes a new type of motivation that was written with the Explorer firmly in mind – Discovery. Whether it’s finding the ruins of a lost civilization that he’s been seeking his entire life, finding ancient tech that can be adapted to modern uses, or simply finding out what he is capable of, this helps provide the Explorer character a direction during play.

The chapter also includes three new species that fit the vein of the Explorer Career as well as three new specializations for it. The species are the Chiss, the Duros, and the Toydarians. The Specializations are the Archaeologist, the Big Game Hunter, and the Driver. Both the Duros and the Driver are exactly as we see in the Age of Rebellion Beta, so if you’ve read that material, there will be no surprises for you here, but the other two species and Specializations are brand new. The Archaeologist is you typical Indiana Jones type of character – someone who can one day be an academic sitting behind a desk and the very next be exploring a recently unearthed tomb of a long dead warlord on the Outer Rim. The Big Game Hunter is a very straightforward talent tree, and it includes everything the name conjures up. He’s tough, he’s good with a gun, and he can find, stand up to, and take on the toughest creatures in the galaxy – whether they be man or beast – without flinching. The Driver is the consummate wheel man. He is to speeders and swoops what the Pilot is to snub fighters and tramp freighters, and is capable of pushing vehicles beyond their factory limits as well as making them operable again when he pushes them just a little bit too hard.

The final thing included in the first chapter are our first glimpse at Signature Abilities. They take a lot of play and dedication to get to, and they are expensive to purchase and upgrade, but they are good. A player chooses which signature ability that he wants to attach to the bottom of one of his in-career talent trees. Each Signature Ability includes a basic form, and then has eight upgrades below it that can be purchased, making them an interesting cross between talents and Force powers. The two Signature Abilities included in this release are Sudden Discovery and Unmatched Mobility. These abilities are activated through the expenditure of Destiny Points, and each provide their own unique and powerful effect on the game. I won’t go into any more detail on them, but lets just say that I am very, very pleased with our first look at these and can’t wait to see more of them down the line.

 

Just one of the sights an Explorer gets used to seeing.

 

The second chapter of the book is nominally targeted towards Explorer characters, but most characters will find something of use in it, whether it is a new weapon or piece of gear. Simply put – there are a lot of fun new toys in this section of the book. There are several new blaster weapons, slug throwers, and melee weapons (including the vibrospear!) as well as a few new pieces of armor, and a lot of gear including portable perimeter fences, distress beacons, beast calls, and any number of other things designed to help someone survive in the unknown. It also includes several new droids designed for hunting and exploration as well as a dozen new profiles for vehicles and starships from fighters all the way up to capital ships. We are even treated to seeing the fan-beloved Ghtroc 720 make its reappearance into the game after it was cut from the Core Rulebook.

The final section of the book contains about 25 pages of advice for the GM on running adventures and campaigns for groups that contain one or more characters of the Explorer career, including how to get them into the action, how to keep them in the action, how to develop rivals and antagonists, adventure seeds and a small handful of groups that could be used as sponsors for the party. This section also includes some general advice on creating memorable NPCs that won’t overshadow the player characters as the stars of the game, tips and tricks on including horror and foreshadowing effectively in your game, and tips on designing an adventure.

All told, this book was well worth the price. It really sold me on the Explorer Career in a way that the Core Rulebook had been unable to – so much that I think the next character I roll up will use one of the new specializations. If you have any interest about any of the material that was announced with this book, do yourself a favor and pick it up. Fantasy Flight Games really outdid themselves in defining just what a sourcebook is and should be with this release, and it gives me a lot of hope that we’ll see a long and most importantly healthy line of products for not only Edge of the Empire, but also for Age of Rebellion and Force and Destiny when we get those full releases. 

Until next time. I’ll see you out among the stars.

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Review: Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Part Two

Note: This is the second part of a larger review of the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game from Margaret Weis Productions. You can read the first part here.

Dice. They are generally one of the central components of any roleplaying game, and there are as many different dice mechanics out there as there are roleplaying games. Sure, some don’t use dice. They may use cards. They may use coins. Some use a game of rock, paper, scissors. A small handful of them might use a combination of interpretive dance and Pig Latin. (I’m trademarking that particular mechanic. Get back. Those millions are all mine.)

But every game out there has some method of adjudicating conflict. And with a game like Marvel Heroic Roleplaying there is going to be a lot of conflict. So, how does this game adjudicate?

Well, the game functions with dice pools, a concept that is familiar to a lot of gamers out there. You roll a number of dice and look for certain things, be they dice that come up certain numbers or matches. However, Marvel Heroic does things a little bit… differently. Each character has a number of things on their sheet, or “datafile” that are rated at various levels of power, from a d6 to a d12. These correspond to the type of dice you roll together when you perform an action. But the first things first, you have to clearly state your intent. This is what helps you to determine what powers and traits you can tap for that particular action. You then set about building a dice pool out of the various listings on your data ile out of your Affiliations, Distinctions, Power Sets and Specialties.

The first thing you need to look at is their Affiliation dice. This is based on the group situation that your hero is in: Solo, Buddy, or Team. Each of them is either rated a d10, a d8, or a d6 based on how well the hero operates in a given situation. Heroes are strong in certain situations, but weaker in others. Captain America works best in a team setting, but isn’t so hot when he’s by himself. Wolverine prefers to play by himself but struggles when it’s just him and one other person. Spider-Man really shines with one other hero to play off of, but his style is kind of cramped in a team situation.

A classic team situation.

Then you get to look at your character’s distinctions. These are the quotes or traits that really define your hero’s strengths and weaknesses. These are things such as “Man out of Time” for Captain America, “Blind Justice” for Daredevil, “Billionaire Playboy” for Iron Man, or “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility” for Spider-Man. If one of these distinctions applies to the character’s situation, they can choose to add it to their dice pool at either a d8, or at a d4 and gain a Plot Point (more on these later).

Finally it’s time to look at your power sets and your specialties. Find a power that fits the situation and a specialty that fits the situation and all of the dice together. This is your dice pool.

This may sound a little difficult to grasp, and granted, it’s a little bit hard to get your head around at first, so let me give you an example. I’m playing Colossus and I’m with several of the other X-Men, including Kitty Pryde, my on again, off again girlfriend, and we’re attacking several members of the Brotherhood. She’s getting the snot beaten out of her and I want to go and help by smashing one of her attackers. I look at my sheet. I’m in a team situation, so I start with the base d10. I see two of my distinctions that could be useful – Ironclad Loyalty and Quick to Anger. I decide to add Quick to Anger at a d4 and take the Plot Point from the Watcher. I add my Godlike Strength at d12 and my Combat Expert at d8 to finish out my dice pool. I end up with a d12, a d10, a d8, and a d4.

You roll your dice and immediately set aside any 1s that you roll. These are what are known as opportunities and are the currency the Watcher uses to grow the Doom Pool (more on that later). Then you add any two dice together to get your total and then assign one of the remaining dice as the effect die.

Your opponent assembles his dice pool the same way, picking and choosing from his data file to build his dice pool and sets his total and effect die, using the same rules as the hero pertaining to any 1s rolled.. If the hero’s total is higher, then his action succeeds and he applies the effect die to the opponent or uses it to create an asset or complication. If the opponent’s total is higher, then the action fails.

There are many, many more things pertaining to dice pools and effect dice and what they can do, much more than I am able to spend talking about here. Assets, Complications, Scene Distinctions and more can all affect your dice pool or dice pools that are rolled against you. For more, I would encourage you to pick up the book and give it a read through. Hopefully I’ve more than piqued your interest a little bit. Stay tuned. Next time I talk about my favorite part of the system – The Doom Pool and speak more on Plot Points.

Originally posted on Word of the Nerd Online.

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Review – Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Part One

Published on April 17th, 2012, Margaret Weis Production’s (MWP) Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Basic Game was released. This game was subject to no small amount of buzz. It was first announced that MWP had acquired the Marvel license at GenCon 2011. This license joined forces with some other incredible licenses, including critically acclaimed television series like Leverage, Serenity, Battlestar Galactica and Smallville. I finally got my hands on a copy as a birthday present.

MWP also had a fantastic stable of writers to put together Marvel Heroic Roleplaying including Cam BanksRob DonoghueMatt ForbeckWill HindmarchPhilippe-Antoine Menard, and Jesse Scoble. The level of talent shows in the design of the game as well as in the writing throughout the book.

It should be noted that this review is coming from only having read the book (which is one of the few game books that I’ve read cover to cover mind you), but I have unfortunately yet to get it on the table. I do hope to do so very, very soon.

Let’s just get this out of the way right from the outset. I love this game, and it is my firm belief that if you are a fan of the Marvel universe, superhero roleplaying games, or of Margaret Weis Productions, you should get it. You can grab it from Amazon for $13.59 or you can get it directly from MWP’s website for $19.99 with the bonus of a free PDF copy. It clocks in at 227 pages in length and is only the size of a trade paperback, more than fitting for the property.

Right from the outset, it is obvious that this is not your typical roleplaying game. Most games dedicate a large section of the book to creating your own persona, and this one does have a section for creating your own hero and talking about the various powers and specialties. But that is not the primary focus of this game. Instead, Marvel places a much bigger emphasis on selecting an existing persona from Marvel’s impressive stable of characters and playing as them for a while.

Whaddaya mean we don’t need a healer?

And the reason for that is the game is not focused around having a character for a long-term story, but instead to explore various characters for a session or two and then take on another character in the next event. You don’t have to worry so much about character balance or having “the right character for the job” in the group of heroes. Whereas a Dungeons and Dragons party may very well fall apart without a Wizard or a Cleric, there is no danger of this in Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, in fact, it might make for some very interesting drama. And with 23 characters in the book, from Captain America to Wolverine, Iron Man to Spider Man, Mr. Fantastic to Ms. Marvel there’s bound to be a couple that catch your eye.

So, just how does the game run? Well, at its core, Marvel is powered by the Cortex Engine, MWP’s in-house game engine, though those of you familiar with any of the previous incarnations of the game might have to take a harder look to notice it right away. It’s the heavily modified version of Cortex from Leverage and Smallville, and is actually modified  a little bit more to focus on the four color action of the Marvel universe, and it does so beautifully. The dice mechanics can take a little while to get your head around, but once you do, it is incredibly intuitive and easy to pick up. In the next installment we’ll get into a discussion on just what dice to pick up and when, as well as talk about my favorite part of the game, the Doom Pool.

Originally posted on Word of the Nerd Online.

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Campaign Journal – Star Wars Saga Edition #4

In this installment, we finally get into the action that I’ve been promising for a little while. So without further ado…

You know how the song goes.

The story begins on the planet of Haalthor, a small colony world in space still controlled by the ousted Emperor Roan Fel. The party is called to the office of the colony administrator and sent on what should be a blue milk run, being sent to a nearby colony to pick up a surplus of foodstuffs and medical supplies. They board their transport, an antiquated Ghtroc 720 held together by mostly string and mesh tape.

Gives you strong bones and a strong connection to the Force. Doesn’t do anything for whining though.

The captain of the ship takes them to their destination, but when they get there, they find no signs of life coming from the colony. No communications. Nothing. As they get closer, they pick up a very low powered distress call, but nothing else. No communications they send get any sort of response, and they fail to see many signs of power. They land the shuttle a short distance from the actual colony and head into the area on foot where their fears and suspicions are confirmed. There is no one alive in the colony. The strangest thing is that there doesn’t appear to have been any kind of battle. There are no blaster marks on the walls, no signs of explosion, no signs of struggle, period. The only thing left in the colony are a few droids, who appear to have been tampered with, as they don’t recall anyone besides the party having been on the colony.

Rann takes the group to the administrative building of the colony where further investigation yields the source of the distress call. The colony administrator managed to get the distress signal activated before he disappeared, but something tampered with the power output, be it whatever screwed with the droids or an actual hacker turning it down couldn’t be determined.

The party decided to head to the landing pad to see if the supplies were still there and at least complete that part of their mission before returning to Haalthor to share this sudden turn of events. As they got there they noticed several stacks of crates that were most likely the cargo they were supposed to have picked up sitting on the pads. As they began to look through some of them, they heard the noise of a ship’s engine overhead, and they saw a landing craft begin to approach the colony. Skai, Niera, Rann, and Kiri all ran for cover, but Jasem decided to see who was aboard the ship and see if they knew anything. As the ship landed, several men in armor came out holding several beasts on leashes. They were followed by a Rodian in an officer’s uniform. They all bore the markings of the Crimson Buzzards, a gang of not quite pirates who made most of their money selling scavenged tech from derelict ships. The Rodian demanded to know who Jasem was and what they were doing here, and the Caamasi related his name and the purpose of their visit as well as telling them they were from Haalthor. The Rodian ordered his men to kill the Caamasi, prompting the rest of the party into action. The ensuing battle and it’s results will be discussed in the next installment as well as commentary on the threats and tactics used.

Originally posted at Word of the Nerd Online.

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Campaign Journal – Star Wars Saga Edition #3

I know I promised that we would get into the action on this post, but I would be remiss if I didn’t take this entry to talk about something that has grown to be super important to me as a GM since I learned of them. Something known as the Three Questions.

GM Chris, host of the Order 66 Podcast came up with these questions, believing that a good answer to these three simple questions can be more important than any amount of back story when looking at a game from a GM’s perspective, because they immediately provide hooks he can use to draw the character, and by extension the player, into the game.

So what are these three magical questions? Well, I’m no bridge keeper, but I’ll ask you anyway.

1. What does you character Love? With a capital L. Even the most reviled, evil despot has something, somewhere they care about a great deal, and would give of themselves to protect – perhaps even sacrificing their life to protect and care for. This could be a friend, family member, or lover. Perhaps a homeworld, a group of people, or a village that once sheltered you. Maybe you have a soft-spot for kittens.

2. What does you character Hate? With a capital H. Even the most benevolent and well-meaning character has something, somewhere they hate, would go out of their way to harm, or would irrationally distrust. This could be an individual in the character’s past, or a group of people. Even a planet. Perhaps the character has a prejudice against Trandoshans, or has sworn to destroy the bounty hunter clan that destroyed his village as a child.

3. Why is your character willingly (and eagerly) working for the [rebellion/empire/guild/organization/order/etc./whatever-group-the-PCs-are-actively-working-with]? Why is your character an active participant in what this group does, and willing to work with the rest of the party? Are they devoted to the cause? Do they have a simple love of credits? Are they devoted to stamping out a threat?

They are three short questions, but there is a lot there a skilled GM can work with and build off of, providing hours and hours of drama and entertainment that the players are going to care about, because their characters are directly involved somehow. But I would go so far as to add in a fourth question just to round it out.

4. Your character has a connection with one of the other characters. What is it? Were they childhood friends (or rivals)? Were they sweethearts growing up? Are they related? Did one help another out of a jam (by saving them from slavers or Imperial troops)? Are they mentoring another character?

This kicks the entire notion of “you meet in a tavern” right in the teeth, something that I am happy to do. Yes, it’s a sacred cow in the world of RPGs, but it’s fatted to the point where it’s well past time for slaughter. This begins the game with the PCs already knowing at least one of the other party members in some way, and already begins building  relationships before the first session and gives the players something to work off of. In fact, this idea is so important, that the wildly popular Spirit of the Century has it as a built-in mechanic during character creation.

I tried the three questions in a campaign, and I haven’t gone back since.

So, to finish rounding out the cast, and to make help make sense of things that are going to be put in motion later, I’d like to present to you the abridged versions of my players answers to the questions three.

Skai Kasian

Directly related to events in his past, Skai has been on his own, and has grown to love the freedom that comes from never knowing where your next job is going to come from. For this reason, he hates those that would prey on others and take away that freedom, be they pirates or slavers, believing them to be the worst kind of coward. His lifestyle has led him to the less regulated Outer Rim where he took a job on the growing colony world of Haalthor.

Kirikinerry-tovante

Holovids have always been an escape for Kiri, and have become his one true constant companion and love through a life of constant upheaval. Kiri also maintains a strict code of honor and has a strong distaste for those who don’t play “fair,” which granted, sounds a little strange coming from someone with criminal tendencies. If you’re going to lie, cheat, and steal, then at least be elegant about it. Unfortunately for Kiri, the law finally caught up with him, and he was forced to sell his ship to get enough bribe money to get the charges dropped. This has effectively stranded him on the colony of Haalthor.

Rann Antilles

Rann still carries a torch for his first love, Seela, a Twi’lek dancing girl. When he left Corellia, they drifted apart, but the peace officer still cares deeply for the spirited young woman. Coming from a long line of decorated CorSec officers, the thing he hates above all is dirty cops and the politics that follow in their wake, catching everyone else in the waves. In fact, this sort of led to him losing his position in CorSec. “Pressure from upstairs” for busting an Imperial loyalists son on a drug charge lost him his job and he drifted away from Corellian space, taking his particular set of skills and knowledge to work on a security detail on a small Outer Rim colony.

Jasem Osar

If Jasem could choose one word to define perfection for himself it would be this. Harmony. His  time with the Revwien and his time studying the way of the Tyia Adepts have taught him that nothing is more important in this world, and the peace-loving ways of his species play to that particularly well. Because of this, he hates being required to perform a violent act. He will do so if the act is necessary, but it tends to push him into a cycle of self-loathing and hatred that tends to lead to further destructive actions and hatred of the person who necessitated the action. After being exiled from his homeworld and being trained as a Tyia Adept, he traveled the Outer Rim, seeking to bring harmony back to those that had suffered at the hands of this new war, moving from planet to planet, eventually leading him to Haalthor.

Niera Kurucz

Niera has always loved droids, more so than even a normal droid technician would. She has always been surrounded by droids and has even gone so far as to take steps to make herself more droid like, putting her at odds with her own people and other organics in general. This has led to a hatred of disrespect, stemming from the disrespect she got from her own people as well as from seeing so many people use and abuse droids as nothing more than simple tools. She was sent to the colony of Haalthor by her company to act as a technician for the colony.

Next time – The First Session.

Originally posted on Word of the Nerd Online

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Campaign Journal #2 – Star Wars Saga Edition

In the last installment, I discussed the very inception of the my latest Star Wars Saga Edition campaign. In this installment, I am going to introduce the cast.

The players are all people from the d20 Radio boards, some of whom I have gamed with before, and a couple who I have not. After deciding on some character creation guidelines, I let them cut loose, and was very excited when I saw what they had come up with.

I decided to allow the characters both a Background and Destiny for this game. The Destiny system was introduced when the game launched. Each character has a destiny they are working towards completing. In doing so, they get a small number of Destiny Points, which allow them to do incredibly powerful things in the game ranging from completely negating a hit to causing an automatic critical hit to changing when you act in combat.

The Background system was included in the Rebellion Era Campaign Guide and was intended to replace the Destiny system. Instead of focusing on where your character is going, it focuses on where you character came from. You choose a defining event, a job you worked at before you became a hero or a different planet of origin for your species. You draw certain abilities from your background, as well as the ability to draw from certain skills that may not normally be in your classes list, a powerful ability to be sure when used correctly.

I also decided that I was going to run a little experiment with this game. Those of you with an ear to the ground within the RPG industry have no doubt heard of the FATE system, which has been generating a lot of talk lately for their intriguing system. The crux of that system is what they call “aspects,” certain phrases, characteristics, or even quotes that describe a character. They can be invoked for bonuses or compelled to make situations interesting. I have decided to try something similar for this game (and so far, it seems to be working pretty well). Instead of Fate Points as FATE uses, the players use and get Force Points when invoking or compelling their aspects instead.

But enough of that system talk. Onto the characters!

We have Skai Kasian, a Zabrak mercenary who suffered a terrible loss at the hands of pirates. He was marooned on a remote planet after pirates shot down and killed the entire crew of the transport ship he was on. He was left alive to be hunted as sport and through skill and a little bit of luck he killed the pirates and was able to escape, dedicating his life to making life as difficult as possible for pirates and others that would prey on those less powerful than them. He is a survivor through and through, and more than a little superstitious, due in large part to a trinket that he discovered while he was being hunted by the pirates. Mechanically, he is a solid fighter, a Scout/Soldier build with the focus on survival, allowing him to avoid some damage as well as push his defenses higher. His aspects are Survivor, Superstitious, and Merc With a Heart of Gold

Next we have Kirikinerry-tovante, or Kiri for short. He is a Squib who was forced into a life on the Outer Rim through his own actions. He had a long and profitable career with the Squib Reclamation Fleet as a scavenger until war plunged the galaxy into chaos again. While the business was still profitable, Kiri was uncomfortable throwing himself in the middle of galactic events, especially those involving the Sith. He took his skills and went into business for himself as a smuggler until the authorities caught up with him. He was able to pay off the officials to look the other way, but it involved him selling his ship and effectively stranding himself on the colony world of Haalthor. Mechanically, he is a pure Scoundrel, focused on stealth and deception. His aspects are Outer-Rim Lifestyle, Caught in the Middle, and Holovid Junkie.

Then we have Rann Antilles, the near-human from Corellia. Rann was a cop, and a good one at that, working for CorSec until he found his commission revoked for busting an Imperial official’s son on drug charges. Finding himself unable to do anything else, he left his former life and bounced around from security position to security position, eventually finding himself signed up on an Outer Rim colony as part of the local defense. Though cocky and smart-mouthed, Rann is an honest cop through and through and actively hates those that give his profession a bad name. Mechanically, Rann is a Scout/Soldier build, another fighter, though this one more focused towards offense as well as some tricks up his sleeve outside of combat. His aspects are An Honest Cop, Chronic Wiseass, and Streetwise.

Next, there is Jasem Osar, the Caamasi Force user was exiled from his tribe after an incident with some slavers. A race that is wildly pacifistic, often to the point of complete and total non-violence, Jasem broke those tenets when he stood up to a group of slavers intent to take some of his people away. Though the results were appreciated, his actions could not be tolerated, and he was exiled from his clan. He drifted for a while before discovering and being discovered by the Tyia Adepts, a Force-using tradition that exemplified harmony and peace, but also showed him how to use his gifts to non-violently handle situations should the need arise. Since then, he has been moving about the Outer Rim, seeking to keep himself out of the war as well as to promote his new doctrine. Mechanically, Jasem is a very interesting character. He is a Noble/Soldier build, and the words used to describe him are “Force Tank.” Despite his lower than average hp, he is built to focus enemy fire on himself and absorb it through various talents and Force powers. His aspects are Peacekeep, Wise Man on the Mountain, and Stubborn Old Fool

Finally, we have Niera Kurucz, the Arkanian Tech Specialist. She always loved machines, and spent more of her childhood with droids and circuits than with other children, tinkering both with a droid that has become a personal companion as well as with herself, going so far as to remove one of her hands to replace it with a cybernetic prosthetic. As she grew, she found herself more and more distanced from her people, she left her homeworld after some “encouragement” from the leaders of her community. She eventually found employment with a very large droid and cybernetics firm that paid her incredibly well to do the things she loved to do. Most recently, they sent her to Haalthor to oversee the installation of several devices that the Imperials had paid the company for. Mechanically, she is another interesting concept. While Force-sensitive, she doesn’t show any signs of it yet, but she is focused on being able to affect the minds of droids with mind-affecting powers which they are normally immune to. At the moment, she is simply a very talented droid mechanic. Her aspects are Uncomfortable Around Organics, Droid-Lover, and Internal Encyclopedia.

So there you have the cast of this adventure. Next time, we’ll finally dive into the story so far. Keep your eyes peeled, and remember – let go of your conscious self, and act on instinct.

Originally posted on Word of the Nerd Online.

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Campaign Journal – Star Wars Saga Edition #1

It’s always difficult for me to commit to starting a new campaign when it comes to tabletop games. It’s because I usually have so many ideas bouncing around my head that I feel that I am never going to be able to do them all justice.

However, I have had an idea in my head for a campaign for several years now, one I have tried to run several times. Neither of them got off the ground, unfortunately.

So, when I saw that several people on the d20 Radio boards were looking for a GM to run a Star Wars Saga Edition game over Skype, I figured “what the heck,” and tossed my hat in to GM, knowing that several of them were very committed role players.

This time I had no problem deciding what I was going to run.

This particular campaign I have tried to set in numerous eras. It’s first incarnation was in the Old Republic as a one-on-one game with my wife. The second was a Play by Post experiment that existed completely out of the canon timeline, but would have taken place right after the New Sith Wars and the implementation of Darth Bane’s Rule of Two. After doing a lot of thinking on how I was going to pursue it this time, I decided on the Legacy era, having just re-read the Legacy comics from Dark Horse publishing.

For the uninitiated, the Legacy Era is set over 130 years after the events of Episodes IV, V, and VI and shows us a galaxy once again dominated by a Sith Empire. However, this is not the Sith of the classical era. Instead of the Rule of Two, the Rule of One has been instituted – one ruler, one order. There are numerous Sith Lords across the galaxy, pursuing their own agendas, all the while working for the Sith Lord on the throne.

The Jedi Order is once again a shadow of it’s former strength, and Jedi are hunted mercilessly due to a large standing bounty placed on their heads by the Empire. The Sith Empire is in a state of near constant warfare with the Empire in Exile, the legitimate rulers the Sith betrayed to take power in the first place after helping them in the last great war. The Sith Empire is also forced to deal with the remnants of the Galactic Alliance, the government that existed before the last Empire was established by the Fel dynasty some 80 years previous.

As you can see, the Legacy era puts a lot on the table and in the toolbox of any aspiring GM. All the major pieces of previous eras are taken, put into a blender, and set to “frappe.” It gives a lot of opportunity for both the players and the GM to take the Star Wars sandbox and build what they want with it, and for this particular reason is becoming a fan favorite.

At the time this campaign begins, the galaxy is in a state of turmoil. The Sith Emperor, Darth Krayt has supposedly been assassinated by a Jedi of the name Skywalker, and a series of deadly power games is taking place within the ranks of the Sith Empire. The Empire in Exile as well as the Alliance Remnant have stepped up their pressure on the Sith Empire as well, even going so far as to set aside their differences after the last war and fight as allies.

It is into this mess that five strangers take the stage, working to uncover a sinister plot from an unknown faction deep in Imperial space. Hailing from the Imperial colony world of Haalthor, their story is about to begin.

Be sure to keep checking back as the story of this campaign is told. I want to give you all a peek behind the GM screen. I plan on speaking a little bit about my thought process on encounter creation, house rules that I’m implementing, as well as general system thoughts. But most importantly, I hope to entertain you all with the story of six people who come together for a few hours every couple of weeks and play make believe over the internet.

Next time, you will be introduced to the main players on this stage. Until then, remember to fly casual, and may the Force be with you.

Originally posted at Word of the Nerd Online.

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Threat Assessment – The Double Agent

Star Wars is rife with the intrigues of governments both in wartime as well as in the tenuous peace times. It is also rife with spies, from the [in]famous Bothan Spynet to Imperial Intelligence and Rebel Agents. One of the more dangerous archetypes in the world of intrigue is the double agent, the counterintelligence specialist who “works” for an organization as a spy, while in fact, they are a member of the organization they are being paid to spy on.

In Star Wars Saga Edition, we’re provided some great little talents in the Clone Wars Campaign Guide to build a nasty little double agent that can be a major thorn in the PCs sides by making them unable to be targeted.

The following builds key off of one talent – Double Agent. This mind-affecting effect allows the character to make a Deception check against the Will Defense of every enemy they can see when initiative is rolled. If the check is successful, those targeted do not treat the character as an enemy until you attack or obviously harm or hinder them. This allows them to use Feed Information (and/or Spotter depending on what level of the build you’re using) to toss enemies and allies bonuses in combat, allowing them to remain non-targets during the combat encounter, and Rapport lets them toss bigger bonuses to aid another checks. The higher level build also features Blend In, which gives the character the ability to gain total concealment as long as they are adjacent to at least two other creatures, meaning that they can still stay protected even after their cover is blown.

This NPC, when used effectively, can be a major thorn in the characters’ collective sides during combat by buffing their allies without needing to worry about protecting their own arses.

Double Agent – CL 5

Medium nonheroic 6/noble 3

Force 3

Init +5; Senses Perception +17

Languages Basic, Huttese, 4 unassigned

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Defenses Ref 15 (flat-footed 14), Fort 13, Will 18

hp 28; Threshold 13

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Speed 6 squares

Melee by weapon +6

Ranged hold-out blaster +7 (3d4+1)

Base Atk +6; Grp +7

Special Actions Double Agent, Feed Information, Rapport

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Abilities Str 10, Dex 12, Con 10, Int 15, Wis 16, Cha 12

Talents Double Agent, Feed Information

Feats Informer, Linguist, Rapport, Skill Focus (Deception, Perception), Skill Training (Deception, Persuasion), Weapon Proficiency (pistols, simple weapons)

Skills Deception +15, Gather Information +17*, Knowledge (galactic lore) +11, Perception +17, Persuasion +10, Stealth +10

Possessions hold-out blaster, short-range encrypted comlink, several changes of clothes, cyanide capsule

*See Informer feat

Double Agent, Elite – CL 9

Medium nonheroic 6/noble 5/scout 1

Force 5

Init +12; Senses Perception +19

Languages Basic, Huttese, 6 unassigned

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Defenses Ref 19 (flat-footed 18), Fort 17, Will 21

hp 42; Threshold 17

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Speed 6 squares

Melee by weapon +7

Ranged hold-out blaster +8 (3d4+3)

Base Atk +7; Grp +8

Special Actions Blend In, Double Agent, Feed Information, Rapport, Spotter

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Abilities Str 10, Dex 12, Con 10, Int 16, Wis 16, Cha 13

Talents Blend In, Double Agent, Feed Information, Spotter

Feats Informer, Linguist, Master of Disguise, Rapport, Skill Focus (Deception, Perception, Persuasion), Skill Training (Deception, Persuasion), Weapon Proficiency (pistols, rifles, simple weapons)

Skills Deception +17, Gather Information +19*, Initiative +12, Knowledge (galactic lore) +14, Perception +19, Persuasion +17, Stealth +12

Possessions hold-out blaster, short-range encrypted comlink, several changes of clothes, cyanide capsule

*See Informer feat

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