Sunday, November 23, 2014

A Moment of Silence for Jurg Cragscale (Iron Kingdoms Recap)

Just in time for the game this Thursday, the miniature that I ordered to represent Jurg Cragscale came in.  Not only that, but one of my friends modified it a bit right off the bat so that he could be holding the sword-cannon bit that I also purchased so that Jurg would be on his way to looking the way he should.

Now, I was a bit daunted about getting him painted.  I'm not good at such things, but, hey, such things are the concern of the future.  For tonight I had a fairly accurate representation of Jurg, with the right weapon and everything, painted or not.

Exciting times!

Our group had earned the deed to an island out in the bay off the coast of Five Fingers.  We survived our clash with Khador and our employment by the Protectorate.  Now we just had to figure out how to get to our new home and clean out any potential squatters that might be out there.

Our Rhulic warcaster Couth, the badly injured Ogrun bodyguard Tokol, and our Nyss  (whose player wasn't present) stayed in camp outside of Five Fingers while the Iosan Dahlia, and the Gobber went with my dwarf to check on legal records and the history of the island, as well as to find a barge or something seaworthy to ferry our wagon and warjack out to the island.

Eventually I wanted to talked to my contacts in the Searforge Commission about trading our captured Khadoran warjack for a Rhulic model, but first, we needed to get some information and a barge.  I talked to my contacts, but only to send a payment in on the contract my old group had before they died.  Unbeknownst to me, Dahlia also contacted her "real" employers, letting them know she killed a human warcaster.  And our gobber wandered off.  He actually did some pre-negotiating before we found him, talking to a human and an Ogrun merchant about used watercraft.

This is not the Dahlia you are looking for. 

We got a new hat for the gobber in an attempt to lure him to us.  I only had to trade my hat for the impressive captain's hat that the gobber  (not our own Sir Doctor-Admiral Titimus, another gobber) was wearing, pumping up it's value by telling all of the stories associated with my time wearing said hat.

We attracted a few more gobbers than I intended with this trick, but Titimus eventually showed up, and we talked to both dealers, and cut a deal with the Ogrun for a solid hull of a riverboat that could serve as a barge.

We met up with the rest of the party, and mysteriously, by the end of the night, our gobber employees  (again, not Sir Doctor-Admiral Titimus, who is clearly a full member of the company) had brought us enough parts for our dwarven warcaster to assemble into a working engine.  They also seemed anxious to go once they brought us the parts.

My research found that there were many people that visited the island, especially adventuresome teens, and that many did not return from the island.  Watch reports indicated that they had likely been pressed into service on various ships in the area.  Still, a lot of disappearances.  The family that had owned the island were worshipers of Menoth and hand deeded the island to the faith.  60 years ago they died, and thus, the Protectorate paid us with their holdings.

The island was small, consisting of a dock and a keep that took up most of the land.  Going in, we were fairly certain something nasty had taken up residence and that the disappearances were probably not just related to press ganging.  We did a fairly careful sweep of the whole keep, before we finally found the sub-levels.

Oh, those wacky sub-levels.

Couth was in the lead, followed by our Tokol, Dahlia, me, and Titimus in the rear.  Our warcaster found the meatier undead lumbering from the crypt before us about the same time that the ghostly undead dropped in to surprise Titimus.

Thankfully, Titimus wasn't fighting the ghost all by himself for very long.  It dropped through the floor, right in front of me.

There was a great deal of ebb and flow in the fight.  It came right down to the wire.  In the end, the Tokol and my beloved Jurg were dead, our boss, Couth had lost an eye and was knocked out, but the rest of the party were victorious.

At this point Titimus reverently looted the bodies, and then proceeded to find every religious symbol anywhere in the keep and threw it in the room before they sealed up the door behind them.

The moral to the story is:  never, ever customize a miniature.  Having a miniature and a detailed backstory is just asking for character death.  Next session, we will all mourn, and then I get to roll out my next character, who may be tempting fate with a semi-detailed backstory, but will never, ever, ever have a customized miniature.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Words "Kobayashi Maru" Do Not Exist In This Universe (Force and Destiny RPG Recap)

When last we left our intrepid exiled Jedi Knights, they had witnessed their shuttle being violated by amorous Icetrompers.  Other stuff happened as well, but that was probably the most noteworthy.  Well, that, and they were traveling across Hoth on Tauntauns carrying a Jedi artifact and another box of Important Jedi Stuff that we had yet to open, because Gand mystic's meditations said the box wasn't of immediate importance to getting off the planet.

A snowspeeder was rapidly approaching us, and leaping out of the snowspeeder was a Zabrak wearing furs and a talisman with a crystal set in it.  The way he jumped out of a moving speeder made it pretty obvious that he was a Force adept of some kind.  It was made even more obvious when he punched Triseth, damaged his armor, and sent him skidding backwards.

Most of us circled around the Zabrak, and briefly discussed whether we should be careful and not use lethal force.  After all, he was a Force user, and maybe we could bring him into the fold.  While we where having that debate, our Jedi shadow Ritati crept over to the snowspeeder and identified Imperial markings on the vehicle.

The Zabrak's mind was shielded from "Schick," our Gand mystic, and his Force assisted martial arts were keeping the rest of us busy.  Bynder (our Twi'lek Jedi hunter) and Triseth managed to take the Zabrak down, but not before Bynder used his flame thrower to catch the Zabrak, Triseth, and Ilvar'sen on fire.  Thankfully Hogan  (my Ithorian healer) got to use his healing powers and feel very useful.

"Who gave out this number? I don't want to risk Squib telemarketers . . . "

Ritati had some . . . difficulty . . . slicing the com unit on the snowspeeder and accidentally opened a channel to the Emperor.   No, seriously.  Apparently our Zabrak friend was an Emperor's Hand, and Ritati had Sheev on speed dial.  He indicated that his Inquisitors already knew we existed and were looking for us, which was a bit disappointing, as galactic level news goes.

Ritati explained this to the group by saying, "my job is not to be seen, which I've obviously failed tonight."

We pressed on to the alternate landing zone for our other shuttle, near the mysterious power generator that we noticed on sensor sweeps.  Apparently that mysterious power generator was the property of a group of proto-rebels on Hoth.  They took our pilot prisoner, and wanted to know who we were.  Before we could get very far into the discussion, we found out that a task force of Star Destroyers were above the planet.

Schick's vision was clouded by the Dark Side, but I let my fear guide me to look for a way to survive, and found that we had a chance to survive if we managed to send out a decoy ship at the same time we left, splitting the Imperial response to our leaving the planet.  The proto-rebels were very upset with us, but a volunteer from their ranks joined with Bynder, who would take the meditation map that amplified Force senses, and "broadcast" his position as they left the planet.

We jumped out of the system, and made our way to Yavin 4  (a place on the star charts that indicated it might have some Force related relics).  Against all odds, Bynder and Smalls Darklighter  (our proto-rebel contact) survived, but nearly died.  Bynder got limb replacement, we filled up the Bacta tanks, and started probing Yavin 4.

We found a big dot of Dark Side power on the planet.  Schick was again clouded by the Dark Side, which wouldn't let him have any details about the Big Dark Spot that he sensed.  I made an impossible Lore check and remembered looking into old legends and myths and recalled a story that claimed (unverified, of course) that Exar Kun had died on Yavin 4 and his spirit had been imprisoned there.

We decided that if the myths were accurate, and if the Big Dark Spot was Exar Kun's spirit, we may want to wait to find any relics on Yavin 4.  Smalls Darklighter left, and we started making plans for where to go next, but not before we placed the mediation mat in the reliquary's hidden storage, and opened the other box.

The other box was filled with lightsaber crystals, which we set about distributing to the Jedi Knights on the ship.  Bynder, who had lost his lightsaber years before, began to make plans to build a new one, while Triseth began wearing the Zabrak's medallion, which gave his body properties similar to those found in Cortosis.

Despite all of this, none of us have really gotten together to talk about the fact that the Inquisitors knew we existed, found our master and killed him, and that the Emperor already had people looking for us.  Given that we have a ship full of people that may not be as dedicated to the vision of restoring the Jedi Order as we are, we might have a problem.  But none of us are really talking about it.

Showdown in Khador (Iron Kingdoms RPG Recap)

Our ill-advised by deifically suggested employment was about to come to a head as the Stonegrinder Irregulars continued their march to the edge of Protectorate held Lael, towards Riversmet.

What did our hero Jurg Cragscale learn this session?

  • Scrutators apparently don't understand the difference between theoretically explaining how bribery works to your interested party members and actually practicing briber, which Jurg would never do in a situation that would make it likely that he would get set on fire.
  • Heading into Khadoran held territory and trying to read Menoth scripture to figure out how Menite informed or Protectorate law works is unlikely to work when one does not read Khadoran.  Thankfully, our helpful Iosan second in command was willing to read me a "bed time story."
  • Gobbers use the word "admiral" very loosely.
Heading towards our ultimate goal, we had two significant exchanges with Khador's military.  The first one involved impressive numbers, but not as much firepower, and we managed to survive that one without many injuries, especially when our Gobber driven wagon was able to run over a good number of them.

The second engagement was more . . . daunting.

Jurg's dear, ever appreciated Ogren bodyguard nearly died in that fight.  There weren't quite as many Khadorans, but they brought a warcaster, a warjack, and a few Man O Wars to the engagement the second time around.

Unfortunately our fearless leader's warjack isn't quite up to a one on one fight with Khador's models.  Also, we learned it doesn't have any head butting pistons in it's neck.  Still, we managed to shell the Urcaen out of a lot of them.  Our Iosan who I have no idea is a member of the Retribution was irrationally excited to sneak in and try to kill their warcaster.

Oh, and we may have gotten backup from the Avatar.  A little.

Before the Khadoran warcaster went away, however, his warjack managed to do quite a bit of damage to our Ogren, and I didn't have a chance to call for help until I had dispatched the Man O War that had pretty good odds of killing me as well, had I not gotten a bit lucky.

In the end, the Harbinger of Menoth rewarded us with some coin and the deed to an island out in the bay off of Five Fingers. And we managed to scavenge a Khadoran warjack, which we're going to try and trade for a more useful Rhulic warjack.  Oh, and the boss managed to save our Ogren's life before he bled to death, so that was good.  Our wagon didn't fare too well though.  The "admiral" was sad.

We made it all the way back to Ord, outside of Five Fingers, waiting to get a ride into town that can carry all of our stuff to the right places as we gear up to clear whatever might be on our abandoned island off of said island.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Geek Television Roundup

I'm caught up on everything I'm watching in my geeky spheres, except for Arrow, because I missed a bunch of last season and I'm waiting to catch up on Netflix.  I have to say, I'm kind of suffering from an embarrassment of riches right now.

Star Wars Rebels

I love this show.  It's like watching someone playing a good Star Wars RPG campaign put to animation, and it feels like classic Star Wars.  Out of the four episodes I've seen, two were great, one was good, and one was okay, but was understandably whimsical.  So long as we maintain that ratio, I'm going to be happy.


Flash loves being a superhero.  Barry is an endearing nerd, instead of being a clone of Wally.  We have a "voice" in show making sure we know what the supervillains should be called, they even managed to (directly) address the problems that other TV superheroes  (and some movie ones at that) have in killing off their villains.  Really pleased with this one so far.

Flash is the kind of show that isn't afraid to actually be about a superhero, which seems to be the biggest hurdle DC has when making movies based on their own properties.  Now I'm just hoping that reference to Grodd wasn't a Easter egg they never intend to follow up on.


I'm pleasantly surprised with this one.  Yeah, its a name dropping police procedural with a side order of long term conspiracy theory looking to be solved.  It's not ground breaking, but its kind of comfortable.  Batman used to be one of my favorite characters, until overexposure and reliance upon the cash cow made me groan at the mention of him, but somehow I'm enjoying this.

That said, this one has the potential to really swing wide to the other side.  I'm not sure how much they can do with this series before they have to either keep treading the same paths or wildly diverging from the Batman mythos.  The early introduction of the precursor to the Venom drug has me a little worried, and I'd complain about the age disparity between Riddler and Batman if I didn't really like the idea of Edward Nygma as a CSI.

Agents of SHIELD

Wow is my opinion of this show different than it was when it first started.  It's almost like the series started a few months too early and had to tread water until they could really pull out all of the stops.  All of my complaints about the least interesting characters on the show have pretty much been resolved.  I even kind of like Skye now, which is like saying "I warmed up to Jar Jar."

Characters that were bland have a lot more depth, the show has a much more focused direction than it did at first, and new, interesting characters have been added, and all of it is managing to introduce Marvel characters that haven't shown up in the movies yet and plot lines that tie into what is going on in the cinematic universe.  I really hope they keep this up.


I'm kind of hoping that next year I feel the same way about Constantine that I do about Agents of SHIELD now.  I didn't hate Agents of SHIELD when it came out, but it felt bland, like it needed a little something else to really get my interest up.  Constantine feels the same way to me.  I like the way Constantine is being portrayed, but there is something missing.  Of the two episodes I've watched, neither one felt particularly compelling, like Constantine needs something to do while the showrunners build up the Coming Darkness later in the season.

I don't dislike it, I just wish I liked it more.  I wish I could put my finger on what's not working for me.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

That Poor Ship (Force and Destiny Session Two)

Disclaimer:  What you are about to read occurred a whole week before anyone in the public saw the Rebels episode "Rise of the Old Masters."  What does that have to do with anything?  Well, you'll see. 

Our team of intrepid Jedi in hiding were tasked with finding Force sensitives and artifacts, keeping them safe on our ship as we travel through the galaxy.  The first place we were going to look for artifacts would be Hoth, specifically in the ancient Starship Graveyard.

Unfortunately, when we arrived, there were already pirates in orbit above the planet.

Apparently for a cut of whatever could be salvaged, they were escorting someone else that knew there were Force artifacts on the planet.  On our way down to the planet, we tried to casually circle, but were hailed by the pirates and given a landing zone.

The pirates told us that we were losing our ship, one way or the other, but they might leave us alone to snag something valuable as long as we didn't put up a fight.  We knew we weren't stranded on Hoth, but they didn't.

At any rate, things happened kind of quickly at this point.  Our Gand mystic ran onto the ship and triggered a device that produced pheromones, and he set them for Ice Trompers.  While our negotiations were turning emphatic and threatening, the trompers arrived.

For some strange reason, our Mirialan grabbed my Ithorian and ran onto the ship.  The Mirialan thought that the ship was still cycling, rather than being completely shut down.  So we were trapped on a ship that had to be started cold.  Thus, the Gand, the Mirialan, and my Ithorian were on the ship.

Our Twi'lek hunter was busy negotiating, and another of our Twi'leks was with him.  The human and Chiss members of the group used the arrival of the Ice Trompers to slip away to find the artifact undetected.

The Ice Trompers provided a distraction because the massive creatures were all surrounding our shuttle attempting to mate with it.  Those of us on the ship had an . . . enlightening view of the entire situation.  We weathered the storm, so to speak, but before we get to our plight, our human and Chiss Jedi had their own adventure.

The human and the Chiss found the ship that housed the artifacts, and found a sealed box as well as some old Jedi battle robes and other ancient equipment. They then tracked down the Gand Findsman that had another box that contained artifacts, and they ambushed him.

The trompers did enough damage to the ship that it was difficult to get out of the ship.  While the Mirialan and the Gand were trying to open the doors, my Ithorian grabbed an item on the ground outside the door using the Force and threw it at the release, opening the door.

. . . and revealing to the pirates that I was Force sensitive.  The negotiations took a very tense turn at that point, since there was likely a bounty on me.  To save everybody else, Hogan turned himself over and claimed that he was the only Jedi fugitive and that the rest of the party knew nothing about his presence.

Thinking quickly, the Gand claimed my bounty as the one valuable thing the pirates would let us claim, and we went on our way.  As we put some distance between ourselves and pirates, I apologized profusely to my friends, and swore to never use my Jedi powers in a reckless or obvious manner again.

. . . at which point the human came leaping back to the rest of us using Force leaps to cover the distance.

Between the Gand and our Twi'lek hunter/survivalist, we wrangled some Tauntauns.  We got to ride Tauntauns!  We were going to travel to the other side of the planet, to the mysterious power generator that we found on our readings earlier, where we should have members of our crew and another shuttle waiting.

We stumbled into a bit of an ambush from some snow cats, but managed them handily enough, and didn't lose our tauntauns.

In the meantime, we found a meditation mat that could amplify the ability of a Jedi to utilize their Jedi senses, in time to feel something powerful and malevolent coming right to us . . .

A Nice Stroll Into the War Zone (Iron Kingdoms Session Two)

So, I mentioned that our intrepid team of mercenaries, the Stonegrinder Irregulars, were hired by the Harbinger of Menoth.  We were invited into her service by multiple fanatics that ran themselves to death delivering her message.  Which of course made us reluctant to say no and just a little terrified of taking the job.

After looking at the various paths we could take to get to our new job, we "wisely" decided to hug the river as we traveled on the edge of the Thornwood.  Before you look at me that way, there really wasn't a good way to get from point A to point B.  Plus, we have a warjack.  Sure, he's small, but he's intimidating.  

A few days into the trip, while camping, we had some visitors.  Nice, friendly Duskwolves.  Well, friendly may have been an overstatement.  They were hungry, and willing to gnaw on us.  There were injuries on both sizes, but only fatalities on one, so that's a good thing.  In the end, my fearless Ogren bodyguard was seriously snacked upon, but he survived, and began the road to good health as we secured passage up the river.

I got to negotiate with a river pirate . . . er . . . I mean a fine river captain for hire.  He did warn us that if there was any sign of trouble, mainly Khador forces, we would get a partial discount and be dropped off the first place that was feasible.  

We had a long boring trip down the river, until we found lots and lots of trees torn up.  It was pretty obvious that this wasn't the work of a storm or anything mundane, and our dear captain decided to refund our cash and drop us off on the banks.

This is when I was inspired as to what our new company uniforms were going to look like.  Durable, supple, thick leather coats and boots, maybe gloves.  And lots of them, to account for new members of the company in the future.

I knew what I uniforms were going to look like because we found out what those uniforms were going to be made out of, and incidentally, what had knocked all of those trees down.  A huge reptilian creature, a Dracodile.  

I would like to say I was useful in this fight.  I guess I was after a fashion.  I gave orders to our allies in order to keep firing on the beast, which gave them a little boost to attack.  Other than that, I just wasted a lot of ammunition on the beast.  

As our Ogren was nearly recovered from the long trip up the river, unfortunately our Nyss storm sorcerer was plucked from the top of the wagon, shook around violently, and dropped back into our wagon, badly injured.  I managed to shoot a tree in the dracodile's path, which kept its jaws busy, briefly.

It took a combination of our Iosan investigator tossing grenades down the creature's gullet and the Ogren beating it repeatedly in the head, and some shelling from the warjack before it died.  And then we had uniform material!  The dracodile may have also swallowed a Khadoran Man O War.  Our fearless leader had us bury the man's body out of respect.  

Eventually we made it to the Protectorate camp, and were escorted to the Harbinger of Menoth. The Harbinger and her forces were pretty impressive.  Apparently our crew were to escort the Harbinger and a small force while her big, obvious forces moved another route and drew the attention of various forces.  

I strongly suspect there is more at play than a simple escort mission, but our team is getting paid their own island in the bay around Five Fingers.  Plus we have uniform material now.  

Personal Observations

I was the annoying player this session.  I'm not sure what was wrong with me, but once I hit on the whole uniform joke, I ran it into the ground.  Had I mentioned it once and then maybe again once the dracodile was dead, it would have been fine, but I had to be getting on everyone's nerves.

I also wasn't having any great ideas for my unorthodox combat ability.  I was giving very boring "orders" when I was giving people boosts, when I should have been thinking of something that sounded much better roleplaying wise.  My negotiation was even pretty weak from a roleplaying point of view.

So, if anybody from the game reads this, I'm sorry I was more of a pain than usual.  I really will try to be less annoying and more useful.  

Downtime Rounds

My post about hyperspace travel times and narrative time, and the fuzzy way that time advances in Star Wars stories got me to thinking about how to handle downtime in a genre where pacing is more cinematic and less "real time."  Star Wars definitely counts, but I think there are other games where this would also be the case.

My initial thoughts were to create "downtime rounds."  Essentially, making sure everybody at the table has the chance to do something with their downtime, without having half the session bog down into deciding what you "could do" in two and a half hours downtime, or three days off, etc.

In movies, when its important, you see someone do something between scenes that advance the narrative.  Usually these things happen so that the heroes have an excuse to have a plan in place, explain a new toy they might be using, or for them to get important information, or maybe to refocus themselves on the task at hand by being inspired or pushed by some event.

So thinking about how movies work, I think its logical to have three kinds of downtime:

Quick Downtime  (The heroes have a few minutes to an hour or so before they move on)

Extended Downtime  (The heroes have a day or two before they move on)

Between Episodes  (The heroes have a week or more time to rest and plan before things progress)

While I think this set up works for anything with a more cinematic basis, I'm thinking Fantasy Flight Star Wars at the moment, so I'm going to be defining things in those terms.

Quick Downtime

Every PC at the table gets to take a "downtime action."  Unless the order of actions is important, resolve from the right hand side of the GM all the way to the left, and then get back to the next scene.

Extended Downtime

Every PC at the table gets to take 3 "downtime actions."  Each player takes one downtime action at a time.  Actions are resolved from the right hand side of the GM, one at a time, until the cycle has repeated three times.

Between Episodes

If possible in the day and age, between episode actions should be resolved via e-mail or social media, with a player determining everything they want to accomplish while the adventurers are waiting for the next adventure to start.

My personal preference would be for downtime actions that require skill checks between episodes to be resolved via "Making Passive Checks" optional rule on page 322 of the Edge of the Empire Core Rulebook.   Essentially what this means is that actual skill ranks are more important between episodes, because checks more reliant on unskilled checks are much better for interesting events to be triggered in game.

This also limits what can be accomplished, since the PCs may be able to do hundreds of things, but they can only accomplish things that involve skill checks if they specifically have high skills in a given skill.

Example Actions

Not all examples are available at all times.  PCs that are briefly hiding out on a deserted mining facility can't purchase or sell items, for example, because it doesn't make sense in the narrative.  Ask the GM if an action is possible during the downtime involved.

Make a Purchase--A PC can make whatever checks they need to make in order to find and purchase a piece of equipment.  For example, if the PC needs to make a check to find a given piece of equipment, and also wishes to haggle for the price, they may make both of those rolls as part of this action.

Sell an Item--A PC can make whatever checks they need to make in order to find a buyer for a piece of equipment, and whatever checks are needed to negotiate with that buyer.

Upgrade Equipment--A PC can attempt one upgrade on a piece of equipment.  If available, the PC can spend the 100 credits for spare parts for the upgrade as part of this action.

Attempt a Vehicle Repair--If a vehicle has suffered a critical hit, a character can make a single attempt at repairing that critical on the vehicle for one downtime action.  This includes any credits that might need to be spent as determined by the GM.

Talk to an NPC Contact--The PC can attempt to find and talk to a NPC contact of some sort.  This includes a check to find the NPC and any social roll to convince the NPC to work with the PCs.

Other Skill Checks--In general, any skill check that wouldn't be a reaction and wouldn't logically take hours or more to complete, can be attempted as a downtime action.

Other Suggested Rules 

In Session is Never Between Episodes--The GM can rule that there is never a "between episodes" downtime during the game session.

Quick Downtime and Strain--Whenever the GM determines that quick downtime occurs, this is the trigger for PCs to make checks to recover strain  (rather than just declaring when a scene begins or ends).

Extended Downtime and Strain--Whenever the GM determines that extended downtime occurs, this is the trigger for the PCs to recover all of their strain.

Between Episodes and Critical Injuries--Whenever the GM determines that the PCs are between episodes, any PC that had a critical injury can remove one critical injury before the next episode begins.

Tracking Time--Whenever tracking time on the Event Track timer, each encounter counts marks off 1 on the timer, each quick downtime marks off 1 from the timer, and each extended downtime marks off 3 from the downtime tracker.