Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Wright Path

Edgar Wright is no longer on the Ant-Man movie.  According to Wright himself, it was an amicable split.  This doesn't keep people from speculating that Marvel has to be an evil, soulless entity that was seeking to destroy a good movie because that's what soulless entities do.

I loved Hot Fuzz, hated Scott Pilgrim, so I know Wright is talented but I don't always agree with his choices in film making.  What I'm about to say has nothing to do with Edgar Wright's talent.

Wright's original vision, from what we've heard in interviews here and there, was to make a comedic, quirky film "in a corner of the Marvel cinematic universe," implying that it wasn't meant to cross over into much of the rest of the greater story.

I don't know what Marvel may have wanted to change, but I wouldn't be surprised if they wanted it tied more closely to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  You can call it studio meddling if you want, but I'm going to posit something.  If Wright had gotten this movie made and out in what we now know as "Phase One," he would have been one of the people shaping what the Marvel Cinematic Universe looked like instead of trying to find a corner of the franchise where his vision would still work.

All I'm saying is that its a little sad that Wright posts that there are no bad guys, and people immediately look for bad guys.  Wright had other projects he wanted to get done before Ant-Man, that pushed production back, and the climate changed.  That doesn't sound like an evil conspiracy or even the quashing of creativity to me.  I could be wrong.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

My Obligatory D&D 5th Edition Post

The D&D 5th Edition books will have covers.  This could be a good thing or a bad thing.  Because art.

There will be a starter set and a Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide, and Monster Manual.  They won't all come out at once.

The starter set will be useful, but not for making characters.

You won't need the books to make characters.

There is something in between the starter set and the Player's Handbook, et al.

There may or may not be PDFs that may or may not be ready at launch.

Be excited.


Or not.

This news is so enlightening that it reminds me of something.

Although, to be fair, there is one bit of exciting and interesting news, and that is that Kobold Press is actually the development studio for the introductory D&D adventures.  That is exciting and I do trust Kobold Press.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Valto Doomskimmer Lives! (But it was a Near Thing)

Last Thursday I once again got to play Valto Doomskimmer.  This is a good thing.  I had a terrible day at work, and I desperately needed a night with my alter ego to wash away the corrosive goo of reality.  Worked like a charm, and I'd like to thank my GM and my fellow players for making the session enjoyable.

Before the actual night, however, I decided to flesh out Valto a bit more.  Since we are going to be playing these characters for more sessions consecutively than we had previously planned, I thought it might be a good thing to have more background on this guy in my head.

To this end, I did the same thing I did with my clone trooper in Age of Rebellion, on a smaller scale.  I used Fate aspects to "explain" why Valto was the way he was.

I mentioned the last time my very general concepts for the characters, but last session I also added that Valto seemed to be out of sorts in a city  (granted, a city full of undead), and could be a little obtuse (without entirely being an idiot).  That led me to this set of aspects:

High Concept—Befuddled but earnest storybook hero
Valto confuses easily, but he really wants to do the right thing most of the time. If he sees a person in need, or a wrong that needs addressed, he's on it, as long as the situation isn't too complicated for him to process.
Trouble—Out of his depth in civilization
Valto is at home in villages, camps, on caravans, and under the stars. In larger towns and cities, he has no idea what is going on. He's an expert tracker in the wilderness, but he can get lost in the hallway of an inn, and the swarm of humanity at the docks or in a market square sets his hair on end.
First Adventure—More charming than he seems
Despite being earnest and simple, and despite his lack of ability to function in complex society, Valto manages to be charming and courtly in the strangest situations. He nearly died saving an emissary of the Elf Queen as she was passing between the Three Courts, and when her healers revived him, despite the complexities of Elven customs and traditions, he managed to do and say the right things to not only be ingratiated to his Elven hosts, but to catch the eye of the Elf Queen herself.

This gave me a better handle on how I wanted Valto to react to the environment and the other characters. I also had a better idea of what my "mission" was this time around, since I hit the ground running last time. In the interest of full disclaimer, even though I wanted a handle on Valto, this has not been a deep, nuanced roleplaying campaign. This isn't a bad, thing, and it doesn't mean we've been devoid of roleplaying. It's just that the roleplaying has been a lot more over the top and on the comedic side. Probably why I visualize Valto based on a Disney character, eh?

After my improvised disguise from last time (I pulled my cloak in front of my face and affected an eastern European accent to prove I was a vampire), we managed to sneak into the dungeons. One of our companions was already in the dungeons (since he wasn't able to be there last session) and our first stop was to pick him up and head back into the quest.

Loompa is a halfling barbarian with a disdain for clothing. He manged to "sneak" into the dungeons as by hiring on as a prison guard for the "vampire prisoners." Loompa was confused, and thought that maybe all of the prisoners were vampires. Not that he was that picky. Valto was pretty terrified by Loompa's battering of a "vampire prisoner," and we managed to talk him into rejoining the party. I also got to throw the prisoner a longsword and fired an arrow at his shackles to free him, and I rolled high enough to look impressive. Strangely, he became more important later, but we'll get back to that.

This part of the adventure was much more combat heavy than last session, so next up was the improbably sewn together flesh golem made of parts that shouldn't form a humanoid but somehow did, as well as parasites. I won't go into too much detail, except to say that it was a fun fight, and I got to do a lot of running from place to place, taking my shots, and taking advantage of my ability to get a bonus to my second shot when I picked a different target. I must say, I do like undead that have parasites. Its an underutilized presentation of rotting flesh.

We also had a fight against three more undead, more powerful, with one that was much more powerful than the other two. At this point I decided to roleplay how my Fey Queen's Enchantment worked. When confronted with the big bad, I was about to shoot the main bad guy, but my protector, the Elf Queen, fired a lightning bolt from me towards the big bad herself.

The fight felt pretty epic. The wizard got to a safe distance and pelted the bad guys with spells. The rogue disappeared, popped in and out of the scene, and got dazed so that he was having a hard time hitting anyone. Loompa the barbarian was battering the crap out of the bad guy, and dropped from his injuries. I was shooting her a lot, but ran over to Loompa to save him, but then made a few more attacks and dropped myself out of the fight from psychic damage.

The Syl (the wizard) kept consistently battering the bad guys, and we only had the big bad left. Trip ran over and saved me after I had saved Loompa, and after spending much of the night missing, managed to run up on the undead nemesis and strike the final blow to take here out.

I won't describe what we had to do next, in case anyone happens to know what OP adventure we are playing. There were some hilarious application of backgrounds, and a 1 on the roll that managed to undo everything we had accomplished up to that point. It was great.

In the end, we had to describe how we escaped the vile fortress we were in. I mentioned that I had grabbed Loompa's rope and fired it at a high window, so we could climb out on the rope, but the rope was too short and my bravado did nothing. We split the party, and Loompa and I climbed up to the window, and I dove out the window into the water to swim to shore, while Loompa looked for a boat. Trip and Syl went down the hallway and found out that the prisoner that we had freed had started a uprising, and using that as cover, Trip and Syl left the fortress. Trip, Syl, and Loompa found Lilith (our missing party member), who had already secured us a boat. Eventually the group found me attempting to heroically swim to shore and hauled me into the boat.

Since our mission involved multiple Icons, we had a hard time deciding where to deliver the "thing." We decided that we would roll our Relationship dice to see whose agent found us while we were discussing what we should do with the "thing." An agent of the High Druid showed up and promised to quit sending wild animals to kill Loompa.

Loompa was upset, because he thought the druids were keeping him fed by sending him wild animals, and demanded that the animals keep being sent. Meanwhile, Trip and Valto wanted the "thing" to go to the Elf Queen, so I decided to flash my smile and use "Managed to Entertain the Elf Queen" on the druid, and convince her that maybe the Elf Queen should get a note to visit her half sister about the time that the item was delivered to the High Druid, and she agreed that this was a viable course of action.

We all went our separate ways, vowing to meet up again when we didn't have anything else better to do. For Valto's part, he wandered to Shadowport, was beaten and robbed in an alleyway, reaffirmed his disdain for cities, and wandered back out into the wild to hire himself out as a guard, guide, and tracker.

Lots of fun so far, and I'm looking forward to the next game.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Cowardly Gamer, or Why I Regret Buying Some of the Games I Love (Tactical Competitive Games)

Years ago, I had been away from RPGs for a while when a co-worker introduced me to Magic the Gathering.  It's not that I wasn't aware of the game before.  I had seen ads in Dragon Magazine, and even seen the game played at the local convention before I just gave up on my RPG habit  (for a while).  But I had never played.

We played over lunch breaks.  We worked second shift, so sometimes we would play after work as well, if our wives weren't expecting us home right away.  I picked up a lot of Ice Age cards, and started to collect Alliances as well.  I was having a lot of fun.  I wasn't great at the game.  But having a regular opponent that got lucky from time to time at least made it so that my coworker could practice a bit and got to use his collection as well.

Full disclaimer before I go any further:  I'm not very bright.  No, really.  I come across as a nice average intelligence, but I'm not.  I'm out of my depth a lot, but without intending to be particularly deceptive, for some reason I sound smarter than I am.  If you already don't think I sound that bright, well, okay, you're probably close to the mark, and I'd be happier if I made that impression on everyone.  But beyond my general lack of brain power or processing speed, I'm not a good strategic thinker.  It's not just that I miss obvious moves, it's that I can somehow pull off the most boneheaded, least effective move in the game and not even realize how dumb it was until the whiplash of my defeat sets in.

But I forget the above when I see a shiny new game.

Back to the story I was telling--I was enjoying Magic quite a bit.  I bought one of Wizards of the Coast's snazzy official Magic strategy guides, learning how I should be building my decks, and reading about how the organized play circuit worked.  I was interested enough that I started buying Magic magazines, and that's when I started to realize that I was a fool to have even started down this path.

I read about deckbuilding advice that contradicted the articles I read in the (now outdated) WOTC strategy guide.  I read about an ever-changing landscape of what deck is dominant.  I read about rules interpretations that technically were true, but never would have occurred to me, and yet were the basis of nearly all winning strategy. In fact, part of the competitive atmosphere seemed to be coming up with rules interpretations of your own about how the rules interacted, arguing that it would work, and then taking advantage of your interpretation until word came from on high that it shouldn't work that way.  Then find a new interpretation.

Remember when I said I'm not very bright?  This didn't just remind me of that fact, it made me feel as if I shouldn't be attempting to eat cereal in the morning without protective eye wear.  I had wasted a lot of money--money I should have been much more careful with, on a game that, should I get lucky, I would be below average at, and should I run true to form, I would be wasting my time and my opponents.

I've never really looked back on Magic the Gathering.

But I fell for the same thing all over again, and I'm getting the same feeling of being a sub-par idiot that probably needs a power of attorney, at least for his gaming purchases.

I really enjoy the Star Wars Living Card Game.  I've had a lot of fun playing it with friends.  Similarly, I love the minis for the X-Wing miniatures game, and I enjoyed the whopping one game that I've played.  Unfortunately, the more I read about strategies and what works and what doesn't, and the more I see the local Star Wars LCG and X-Wing scene grow, the more I am reminded that I shouldn't have gone down this path.

Strategies, combinations, builds, meta-games, seasonal changes to what should and shouldn't work . . . I'm starting really feel like this stuff isn't for me.  I'm stubborn.  I want it to be for me, both because I have invested some cash in the games, and because I love Star Wars.  But I am wondering at what point I should become more of a realist.  The games themselves still seem fun, but there is this whole other layer of complexity and interaction that exists if I want to actually play with a larger group of people.

It's not that I'm afraid of losing.  I'm good at losing.  I expect to lose.  The problem is that I don't really want to waste anyone's time.  I'm afraid that I'm so bad at all of the above that not only will I lose consistently, but that I will actively frustrate people and ruin their enjoyment of the game with how bad I am.

Is it just me?  Are there any other gamers out there they get drawn into the shiny bright light of a tactical competitive game just to have reality fry them with the Bug Zapper of Truth?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Challenging the Notion of a Divided Marvel Universe

A few years ago I first started to notice this notion that "the X-Men and the rest of the Marvel universe shouldn't exist in the same world."  Since that time, I see it repeated often enough to see that the notion has gotten some traction.  Not everyone is on board with this idea, obviously, but it gets repeated as if it is a great truism that will eventually sink in to most people that care about such things.

The logic goes something like this:  everybody loves the Avengers, and everybody hates the X-Men, but why would people be okay with super heroes that get their powers from alien artifacts or science experiments or accidents but not with people that are born with their powers.  In other words, if people love any super heroes, they must love all super heroes, and if they hate any super heroes, they must hate any super heroes.

There is a certain tempting simplicity in that logic, but once you get past a surface analysis of how the Marvel universe works, it actually falls apart pretty quickly.

Everybody Loves the Avengers  (and Non-Mutant Heroes)

Most of the public does love Captain America.  He's a World War II veteran that volunteered for a dangerous experiment and helped defeat the Nazis.  Everybody knows who he is.  He has no secret identity, and almost every other hero respects him.

Most of the public loves Tony Stark.  He's a handsome rich guy that designed a suit of power armor to make himself into a super hero.  He's outspoken, gives to charity, and is brilliant.

Most of the public agrees that Hawkeye is definitely an Avenger and hangs out with guys like Captain America and Iron Man, so he must be an okay guy.  

But Hulk?  Does everybody love Hulk?  No, not really.  Most of the world is terrified of Hulk.  Hulk is a walking weapon of mass destruction.  When he's on the Avengers people tolerate him because they assume that people like Captain America and Iron Man are keeping in close in case he goes off the deep end and attempting to harness him for the greater good.

Spider-Man?  Does everybody love Spider-Man?  Spidey is probably one of the most polarizing heroes in 616 New York.  Some people love him, some people hate him.  He's on the Avengers and he's hung out with the Fantastic Four, but he's a masked vigilante, and clearly J. Jonah Jamison has had issues with him in the past, and surely that sways a few New Yorkers, right?

What about the Fantastic Four?  Reed's a genius, he's an okay guy.  Johnny's a gorgeous hunk of man and the picture of what a super hero should be, on top of living the life of a celebrity.  Sue is beautiful and powerful and the heart of the team.  But Ben?  Sure, people aren't as afraid of Ben as they are of the Hulk.  He's never destroyed Las Vegas or led an alien invasion.  But there have been several times when it's been clear that he's not as widely accepted as the rest of the team.  He's scary looking and big and strong enough to accidentally do a lot of harm if you don't trust that he wouldn't hurt a soul that didn't provoke him first.

Everybody Hates the X-Men  (and Mutant Super Heroes)

Part of the problem with the X-Men has been that they intentionally had a lower profile than other super hero groups.  For the longest time, people heard "of" them, but they didn't do press conferences like the Avengers or the Fantastic Four.  Part of that was intentional, to protect the younger members that really were just students being trained to use their powers.

But there is also a lot of evidence to show that, much like in the real world, while there is bigotry, there are also a lot of open minded people.  Professor X has been portrayed as a respected scholar for a long time, even after he was "outed" as a mutant.  Dazzler is a mutant that had a career as a singer and a celebrity.  While they had trouble at first, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch actually gained a lot of acceptance as Avengers even though they were mutants.

While it was clear that there were many who succumbed to anti-mutant prejudice in the USA and other countries, it was also clear that the outright mutant slavery that was being practiced in Genosha when the country was first introduced to the Marvel universe was very widely condemned by other nations.  

Long Odds and Reality

The final piece to this puzzle lies in actually getting into the mindset of someone that lives in the Marvel universe.  Remember that a lot of mutants have powers that are more nuisance that boon.  Remember that a lot of mutants are scary looking.  Remember that mutants have been described as being the next step in human development.

Odds are, if you are a nice, normal person in the Marvel universe, you are never going to volunteer for a super soldier program.  You are never going to stand at ground zero of a gamma bomb going off.  You aren't going to be bitten by a radioactive spider while touring a lab.  The odds are in your favor that you won't have some kind of accident or experiment grant you super powers.

But how do you know that your child won't grow scales or wings or fur or claws or fangs?  How do you know they won't suddenly be able to read your thoughts?  How do you know that they won't set things on fire when they get upset?  They don't have to have had some kind of accident.  It's hidden in their DNA.  You might do everything right, and never put yourself in the path of toxic sludge or cosmic radiation, and still have a mutant child.

So if someone tells you that they can detect the X gene, you would want to know, right?  If they tell you that they could "cure" the X gene by shutting it off, that would be a good thing, right?  I mean, it sounds bad, but maybe if the government could identify who was a carrier for the X gene, you could make sure they wouldn't accidentally marry a "normal" person, and suddenly you don't have to worry about having a child that might sneeze and destroy your car, right?

Super heroes that got their powers by accident or experimentation are fine.  You know you never have to worry about it, and they clearly have a handle on their powers, so it's okay to trust Captain America or Captain Marvel, because they are who they are, and you will never be in their position.  But if there is anything you could do to make sure your kid didn't end up like one of those Morlocks, wouldn't it be tempting?


I actually think that an X-Men universe that doesn't have non-mutant super heroes is missing a lot of the texture of what makes the X-Men compelling.  At least part of the frustration of the X-Men is going to be realizing that people will give someone like Reed or Johnny or Sue the benefit of the doubt, but as soon as someone knows you are a mutant, there is automatic suspicion.  

The simple fact of the matter is that the Marvel universe was built to work more like the real world, and in the real world, people don't have simple reactions to similar phenomenon.  The texture and context of their experiences will color how they react, and in the end, it's how I like my Marvel universe.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Fate Accelerated One Shot--A Giant Conspiracy

Our Age of Rebellion GM was busy on Thursday night, and it's been months (months!) since I ran a game, so I volunteered for an experiment.  I had wanted to try this on a larger scale for Winter War, but I didn't have the time last year to attempt it on the grand scale.  This past Thursday, however, I decided to try the improv one shot using Fate Accelerated.

It also gave me an excuse to finally roll all of those sweet Fate dice that I bought.

The crazy idea was to come up with a genre that the players voted on, make up characters, and come up with a scenario that would last for the rest of the night within that genre, with those characters.  Hopefully it would be entertaining, and maybe introduce a few people to Fate that hadn't run into it before.

In addition to the props, handouts, and character sheets, I also brought along Engine Publishing's Eureka.  I'm going to plug it because it's a great book, even though I was more or less able to come up with a scenario just from talking to the players as they were making their characters.

I brought my Fate dice, a few dry erasable pieces of foam board that I found in the office supply section of the local store, as well as a dry erase marker, character sheets, a list of genres just to narrow down some of the voting, and handouts of page 44-45 from the Fate Accelerated book.

I did, however, forget all of my glass beads.  So many glass beads.  Instead of glass beads, then, I noticed that the FLGS had some of Fantasy Flight's random colored tokens in stock, so I picked up a package of blue and a package of green, and I was all set for Fate points.

The foam board is what I used for writing down scene aspects.  At the top of it, I wrote the overall campaign aspect, and then I would draw a line to add in at least one aspect for the current scene.  The scene aspects weren't always the most inspired, but they worked really well for the one shot, so I'll forgive myself.

Since the group voted "action horror," I decided to do something different and make deformed evil Celtic giants in charge of all of the evil going on in the world, to flavor the bad things as a bit more "evil fey" than "vampire" or "demon."  The examples I came up with for "action horror" for the group were Buffy, Supernatural, and Blade.  The group spent a lot of time talking specifically about Supernatural, with a few Buffy jokes between, so I started picturing Supernatural style scenes.  Specifically this led me to thinking about the group being on the road, encountering local cops, and staying in a hotel while investigating the rumored evil.

The group had a fairly easy time with their high concepts, and it didn't take too long to hammer out troubles and a few other aspects.  I will freely admit a few of the aspects were looser than I would have let the players use in a longer term campaign, but they worked fine for a one shot.

I was fully prepared to let the group skip a few stunts to get a few more fate points, but almost everyone tried to follow the formula for the standard "+2" stunt.  Most of them worked fine, and a few of them ended up being a little too broad, but again, it worked fine for the one shot, and it was something that, had we spent all night making characters and detailing the setting, we could have probably hammered out rather easily.

Our protagonists ended up being a bookish librarian that liked sweater dresses, a bagpiping Irish voodoo witch doctor with a talking skull on his belt, a pretty sleezy paparazzi photographer, a wizard in training, and a horrible big game hunter with a propensity for saying awful bigoted things and carrying big guns.

Our first encounter was a simple encounter with some local police, which could either let them enter town in their own vehicle, or in the back of the police car.  Despite the big game hunter throwing out lots of insulting commentary, the group didn't get arrested, and ended up staying at the local hotel.

At the hotel, the group was attacked by fetches, evil mirror versions of themselves with hard, sharp, glass edges.  Everybody was separate to start, but started to converge as the fight started.  As I was improvising, I was trying to come up with a number of stress boxes and a good "named" skill on the fly.   The fetches had "your worst nightmare +4,"  and three stress boxes.

The game went really well, and everyone had fun, but this combat scene definitely drove home that your first session in a long term campaign really should set the tone for the game.  With open ended aspects and the degree of narrative control you have in Fate, the game is going to go into gonzo territory pretty quickly unless everyone agrees at the outset that they won't go there.  Why do I say this?

The Irish voodoo witch doctor asked his skull what kinds of herbs would help against the Fetches, and he proceeded to cause his own to sneeze so hard that it exploded, then he began creating an ambient herb cloud asset to his friends by shoving the herbs in his bagpipes and blowing them out into the hallway and into the faces of the Fetches.  The librarian also managed to club her Fetch to death with a book that she was reading.  The paparazzi was blinding his foes and created assets with his flash bulb, and the apprentice wizard and the big game hunter used more "conventional" means of just blasting their foes until they shattered.

The big game hunter managed to actually bargain with a little old lady from the town that "knew things," which allowed the group to find the spot in the woods where a Fey Crossroads existed, allowing dark and evil things into the world.  There they found a huge shadow creature guarding the crossroads.

Did I mention things getting gonzo before?  I did, didn't I?  By the end of the fight with the shadow fey guardian, the PCs had found the big game hunter's t-shirt cannon and fired it at the shadow creature, causing it to be constricted, the librarian had found a diagram in her book that hurt the creature, with the help of the apprentice wizard, the Irish witch doctor fell inside the creature, the big game hunter had the taint of evil seep into him, the librarian was squicked out by tentacles touching her, but they managed to prevail and defeat the huge shadow creature.

It never got to this, but had the players ended up in jail, since one of the players had mentioned Red Caps, the little murder fey would have been sneaking into the prison to kill them in the middle of the night.  It's a lot of fun designing the session based on the players random commentary.

We had lots of fun.  Great one shot.

What did I learn?

  • In a long term campaign, the whole first session really should be devoted to making sure you express the tone and fine tune the characters so everyone's expectations are on the same page.
  • It's not as hard to get people used to the idea of aspects and stunts as I thought it might be.
  • I kept forgetting that when someone takes a consequence, it could be invoked for free once after it was taken.
  • I forgot to pay the player a Fate point when I invoked one of their aspects for my characters to gain a +2 on their roll, although that only happened a couple of times in the session.
Looking forward to the next time I can run this, and I'm thinking I may specifically see if everyone is interested in a Fallout style post-apocalyptic game next time rather than an open ended scenario.  

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Valto Doomskimmer and the City of Glooms

I'm playing in the local 13th Age organized play at Armored Gopher on the opposite Thursdays from the Age of Rebellion game.

Why am I posting in this format, instead of doing a nice character journal like I am doing with Orts Freestar in the Age of Rebellion game?  A lot of it comes down to format.  Initially I thought we were going to be jumping from adventure to adventure, and not playing the same character for more than a few sessions in a row.  This led me to not want to get too invested in the character.

I had three things in mind as I made the character.  For some reason, I had the idea about how rangers in the old Vikings sourcebook for AD&D 2nd edition were likely from Finland.  I also had it in mind that I wanted to see if I could make a character into a 1st Edition ranger.  In other words, arcane and divine spells, no dual wielding, and no animal companion.  And I wanted him to be kind of a thick, almost accidentally charming guy.

I've got some hooks to play with, but I did make him kind of simple, both in and out of game, and now it looks like the group has talked our GM into jumping to the next set of organized play adventures that would let us keep playing the same character, which makes me wish I had fleshed out Valto Doomskimmer a bit more and made him a little more three dimensional.

That said, I had a lot of fun playing Valto, and getting a chance to play 13th Age again. 

Since it's organized play and people reading this may read this summary, I'll try to hit on things that I doubt will give away anything.

First, the dice hated me.  I mean, really.  I was rolling 4s or lower every time I tried something for a while.  At least until we got to the most silly thing in the session later on.  I even managed to shoot our rogue, who I convinced to take point and be the bait for some of the bad guys we were trying to lure into the alleyway.

Thankfully, I'm pretty sure he forgot about getting shot, at least for the moment.  Probably because the rogue kept calling the wizard by his squirrel familiar's name.  

We had a lot of fun improvising an infiltration, but I have to admit, we didn't do the best job of coming up with "good" explanations, just ones that worked because we did a lot of tap dancing with a relatively thick bad guy. 

Our demontouched sorceress has a built in explanation for being in any evil situation.  All she has to do is act indignant and threatening, and people tend to back away from her.  On the other hand, Valto drew up his cape over his face, intoned a horrible eastern "European" accent, and convinced the guard that he was a vampire.  Trip, our rogue with a theater background, convinced the guard that while he was indeed a human, he was signed up as a vampire intern and was looking for the vampire he was assigned to when he signed up.

Then Syl, our elven wizard, blasted the guard in the face with a magic missile.  

It was a lot of fun, but I have to admit that it was a bit on the silly side, and I fully admit that I didn't help that tone at all.  I do kind of wish that there was a bit more "grit" in the session, but I also have to admit, coming into one of the adventures in the middle, I felt a bit lost as well.  I just started to ham it up, and that was the thing that was working.

I will say that while I enjoy the 13th Age organized play format much more than other organized play that I have seen, I do wish the default adventures ran a bit longer.  I get that this is similar to the format used for D&D encounters, for example, but with the game being less tactical and more narrative, I feel like the story is just starting to build, and then it ends.  It could just be me, but I'll also freely admit that it's only the second time I've gotten to play in 13th Age's organized play.

From the Journal of Orts Freestar (CTX-1991), Entry #1

How I Got Into This Mess

I've been going hungry for a while now.  I've been burned.  I don't want to work for the wrong people.  I don't want to do the wrong thing.  I've spent a lot of time wondering if the Rebel Alliance is actually a collection of the right people.  But the longer I've been out of the game, the less I think it matters.  Urchalang has haunted me for a long time, but I can't let my fear of the Rebels being the wrong people to take on the Empire keep me from stopping another Urchalang.

I met up with a contact given to me by Mundo, the old softie.  He never joined up either, but his excuse was that he was too old to change his ways.  Regardless, he kept is Rebel contacts close to the vest, but he trusted me, so I figured I could return the favor.

First Contact

The Rebels put me in contact with a Weequay that everyone calls Slim.  From what I understand he is the squad leader of this particular mission.  He doesn't talk much.  I try to chit chat a little, but he's mainly just flying the shuttle.

He gives me the rundown of what we are doing.  We're on a jungle planet with huge trees, but not Kashyyyk.  In fact, I have no idea where this op is taking place, but I'm the new guy, so I guess all of that is need to know.

Slim gives me a rundown of the people we are going to meet up with.

Wiley--Old soldier, probably past his prime, but with valuable scouting skills, stealth, and sniping talent.

Doc--In a revelation that didn't shock me in the least, Doc is the squad medic, but he apparently has a mercantile streak about him.  He's a deal maker.

Kres'rin'rokini--Some mysterious blue guy, all into the spy game and slicing.  Plays things close to the vest.

Isaac Wilkins--New recruit, farm boy from the middle of nowhere, but he's apparently good with vehicle mounted weapons.

Rana--She's a Duro mechanic, and she's apparently touchy about piloting, even though Slim says she's good at it.

Apparently we're meeting up with the rest of the team because somehow they lost their shuttle, and the Imps have been picking up and dropping off something ominous from this planet.  Curious to figure out how they lost their ship, and if they have any clue about what the Imps are shipping from this planet.

My New Team

I am no longer wondering how they lost their ship.  I'm wondering why they haven't died yet.  Its not so much that the team doesn't have talent, it's that at the slightest provocation they run off in multiple directions without coordinating anything.

Apparently, lacking a tracking device, the team threw their long range comm unit at the last shipping container, hoping that someone could dial up and contact that comm unit.  Of course they didn't have a comm unit to call the one they threw away until Slim and I got here.  In the end, it didn't work.

Isaac is jabbering about seeing a feral Jawa in the forest.  We're not sure where the Imperial base is directly, and some of us seem to want to storm the Imperial base, kick in the door, and kill everyone.  Oh, and now we've got TIE Fighters zeroing in on our location.

Despite not wanting to be assumed to be the pilot, Rana is pretty adamant about flying now that we're trying to get away from the TIEs.  I'm not sure if they have a sensor lock on us or not, but it's best not to sit still.  Rana weaves through the giant tree branches, and seems to be staying out of the TIEs line of sight.  Then she grazes a tree, flies under another branch, and touches down close to the tree.

As she is weaving, the TIE pilots must have been flying by instrument.  Hopefully they are either thinking that they are chasing a sensor ghost or that there are some harmless smugglers poking around that they don't want to waste their time on.  Flying by instrument, they nearly slam into one another, and after they avoid that incident, they fly away from our position.

Tactics by Committee

After our near miss, I hear more about the feral Jawa, more about wanting to kill everyone at the base, and multiple variations of the same, with everyone wanting to do what they advocated before anyone else had a chance to explore the options.  I'm not sure what it was that Slim said, but Wiley called him out.  I reprimanded him for not following the proper chain of command, and his next rebuke to Slim was, "you idiot . . . sir!"

We called in to command to see what we had as mission parameters now that we knew the containers were filled with nerve gas and the general idea of what was going on.  We were told that if we could cripple the operation or take out one or more of the containers, we should add that to our to do list.

Personally, I wanted to gather as much information as we could.  I was hoping we could take short hops around the jungles, open up the sensors, and triangulate where the Imperial base was from the patrol range of the TIE fighters.  I had a rough idea, but I wanted specifics.

I also have to make a confession.  I have no idea what Kres'rin'rokini is, but I know he's not a Pantoran.  He's kind of cold and implacable, so I figured that if I keep pestering him, he'll give something up.  It's great to have a spy on your side, not so great if you don't know what game he's playing.  So for now, he's a Pantoran, because it seems to upset him.

While the rest of us are still arguing, Isaac and Doc head out to look for the feral Jawa, so I ask Wiley to follow me as we track them, and actually keep Slim appraised of what we are doing.

There was an incident with a local primate.  It involved Doc's stun rifle, Isaac, a knife, and a lot of blood.  I'm trying to forget it, but if it comes up in some kind of evaluation later, I just wanted to make sure that I noted it.  I'll provide details if I have to, but I'd rather not.

Turns out Isaac's "feral Jawa" was actually a humanoid canid species that nobody could properly identify.  We tracked him to his camp, and he seemed a bit standoffish, but not hostile.  I tried to barter for information, but Doc was already out in front of me when it came to cutting deals, and the canid was willing to talk if we just left him alone.

He gave us more specifics on the drop site the Imps were using for their mysterious containers, and also gave us a rough schedule of how often they came.  He showed us the plants they were harvesting and from where, and Doc took some samples.


We decided to head to the drop site and attempt to track another container.  Thankfully it didn't take much to convince the team to not strip out the long range comm unit again.  Rana scavenged around the shuttle looking for spare parts and managed to throw together the nicest looking improvised tracking device I have ever seen.  She's really talented.

Maybe a little short sighted.  The housing didn't have an access port for Kres'rin'rokini to program it.  There was a little bit of modification that had to be done, but in the end, we had ourselves a tracking device.  Now we only had to wait.

After a while, another transport headed for the landing pad.  I set up as far back as my taped up DC-15A would allow me a good shot, and Wiley crept up to the container pod.  There were labor droids all around the site, gathering material and putting them in a processor in the pod.  I was ready to shoot anything that got near Wiley.

I had been trained to fight droids, at least before the secondary training module started, so I had an idea.  If a fight had started, I was planning on attempting to blast some of the tree branches and drop them on the clankers.  If I could do that, it might be less likely that a patrol would notice the blaster marks on the tree branches than if the droids themselves had blast marks on them.

Thankfully, it never got that far.  Wiley was almost detected, but he collected himself, got up close to the pod, and placed the tracking device.  The long range comm unit seemed to have an easy time picking up our encoded signal, so we should be able to track the container, and so should Alliance command, once we clue them in on what we did.

Now comes the hard part.  Figuring out what to do next, and keeping everyone from doing it all at once.